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    Sunday, February 22, 1998

    Images of Nagano: two kinds of tears

     NAGANO, Japan (CP) -- Wayne Gretzky, sitting alone on the Canadian team bench as a hockey nation saw the rest of the world catch up.
     Elvis Stojko showing the world The King is alive, but human and in pain.
     Bjorn Daehlie, the greatest Winter Olympian in history, waiting 20 minutes after winning the race to greet a novice Kenyan cross-country skier as he crossed the finish line.
     Those are the images -- only a few of them -- that the Nagano Winter Olympics will evoke in people's memories.
     For many Canadians, the image that will persist is Gretzky.
     After Canada's 2-1 shootout loss to the Czech Republic in the hockey semifinal, Gretzky sat alone on the bench, despondent, frustrated, with millions of eyes on him and the loneliest feeling imaginable.
     It was an image that was repeated throughout the day on TV and splashed across newspapers. For many, his discomfort was the personification of a country's pain at losing at its national game.
     It was a side of the Great One we had rarely seen.
     A few days earlier, it was Elvis Stojko.
     Stojko, who concealed a groin injury, pinched nerve and the flu that gave him Olympic fever, let it all out for the world to see.
     After a courageous free skate, he needed help just getting off the ice.
     There were many other memorable images:
     --Austrian Herman Maier, dubbed the Hermanator, sailing horizontal through the air and crashing just 18 seconds into the men's downhill ski race. He plowed through two fences and bounced down the hillside, but miraculously got up. Maier returned despite the bruises and pain to win the super-G and giant slalom gold medals.
     --Japanese ski jumper Masahiko Harada in tears after realizing that, four years after costing his country a medal, he had come through with the best jump in his or Olympic history in the final round of the team jumping to put Japan in position to win the gold. His country celebrated his redemption.
     --Canadian skier Brian Stemmle hunched over at the waist, outlined against the blue sky after catching a ski in loose snow and missing a gate to fall out of the men's downhill after posting the best time two-thirds of the way through the race.
     --Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati. His image came in many forms -- slashing down the mountain en route to the gold, his electric smile as he celebrated the gold, then looking pale as he ran the gauntlet of reporters on his way to an appeal tribunal to fight to get his medal back. The smile was back -- as was the medal -- as he joked with supermodel Veronica Webb on The Tonight Show.
     Some other memories:
     --Sumo wrestler Akebono, showing it all at the opening ceremonies.
     --The Czech Republic hockey team linking arms as they watched the shootout against Canada in the semifinals.
     --Japanese hockey fans, some with faces painted with the Maple Leafs, others waving Canadian flags, supporting the Canadian hockey team game after game.
     --Stacy Wilson, captain of the Canadian women's hockey team, and her teammates in tears upon receiving the silver medal.
     --Annie Perreault, elated by a surprise gold medal for the Canadian short-track speed skating team, and teammate Isabelle Charest, with tears in her eyes, embracing at centre ice.
     --Cross-country skier Thomas Alsgaard stretching out his ski at the finish line of the men's 40-kilometre relay to give Norway a victory by 2-10ths of a second over Italy.
     --North and South Korean spectators singing together at the short-track speed skating venue.
     --Dutch skater Erben Wennemars writhing in agony with a dislocated shoulder after being knocked down by a Norwegian skater and crashing into the rink boards during his heat of the men's 500-metre long-track speed skating event.
     --Canadian snowboarder Brett Carpentier, within reach of a medal on his second of two runs in the men's halfpipe event, scooting up the side of the halfpipe on his board, flying high into the air and -- splat -- landing on the side of the venue.