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    Monday, November 24, 1997

    Nitty gritty witty

    By TOM BRENNAN -- Calgary Sun
      Well, just when we were all set to do something outlandishly dumb, like declare her an unbeatable juggernaut, the Marciano of speed skating ...
     A hand reaches out, taps us on the shoulder and delivers one of those `hey, bozo, don't be counting everybody else out just yet' kinds of messages.
     Poised to score a four-race, quadruple-world record sweep of the two-day CODA World Cup sprints, Saskatoon's Catriona LeMay Doan couldn't hold off American Chris Witty and had to settle for the silver in yesterday's 1,000-metre race at the Olympic Oval.
     Witty, LeMay Doan and Germany's Franziska Schenk all went in a heretofore unheard-of sub-one-minute, 15 seconds, wiping out LeMay Doan's 24-hour-old world record of 1:16.07
     "It's very exciting to be here, to come here and win was a big thing for me," said Witty, the 1995 World Sprint champion. "The world record was a lot fun, too.
     "It almost seemed humanly impossible to go 1:17. And then three of us are going under 1:16," whistled the 22-year-old from West Allis, Wisc., the same town which produced Dan Jansen. "It was a lot of fun to be part of it."
     LeMay Doan had to be content with ONLY three golds and a silver, after winning yesterday's 500 in 37.90 seconds -- equalling the world record she set, yes, on Saturday.
     "I started laughing when I saw the time," she grinned. "Not 1/100th of second faster?"
     The 26-year-old, believe it or not, has been bothered by a sore groin.
     "I didn't think we'd be this fast, and I'm really surprised about that," she said. "It's great, especially dealing with the groin. I was worried about that.
     "I'm happy, I'm pleased. I skated well. If we're both gonna do it, (word record), I can't be disappointed with that.
     "(The whole weekend) has been a big confidence booster," she nodded. "It surprises me that in the 500, after mine, there's so big a gap."
     "I'm very impressed," said Witty of LeMay Doan. "There's really nobody close to her in the 500. The rest of the world is playing catch-up."
     LeMay Doan will take a bit of a breather now.
     "I think I'm in a perfect position," she said. "I'm skating well, yet I've not had any perfect races. I can work on refining some small things, while some other people have some bigger gaps to attend to."
     Still, women like Witty and Schenk served notice that they will have to be reckoned with.
     "Last season wasn't the strongest year for me," said the American. "I didn't have a good training season, three or four different times I was sick.
     "I think I've turned it around this year. I have a new coach, a new training group. Probably the best base I've ever had."
     Schenk said it was "not the weekend I'd really like, for different reasons. To be injured all week and win a World cup with no start is tough."
     But, Schenk, bronze medallist in the 500 at the '94 Olympics, promises to be ready come Nagano.
     "It's a good start, but the World Cup in Calgary in November is not the most important event," she said. "That's in February at the Olympic Games."
     Calgary's Susan Auch and Michelle Morton were fifth and sixth in the 500, with Linda Johnson Blair 11th. Auch was 11th in the 1,000.