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    Monday, February 23, 1998

    Canada's winter Olympians relish medal haul at homecoming

    By SCOTT SUTHERLAND -- Canadian Press
     RICHMOND, B.C. -- Canada's hockey heartbreak subsided for a moment Monday as Canada's homecoming Olympians were reminded of their record medal haul at the Nagano Games.
     "This team has some remarkable statistics to be shared with the people who have come out to welcome them today," said Bill Warren, president of the Canadian Olympics Association.
     Warren was speaking to more than 200 athletes, supporters and members of the public gathered at Vancouver's airport for a last Olympic moment following the Nagano Games which ended Sunday after two weeks of competition.
     During the last Winter Games of the 20th century, Canada bettered its total of 13 medals won at the 1994 Lillehammer Games with 15 -- six gold, five silver and four bronze.
     Speed skaters, short- and long-track, accounted for nine of those medals.
     Warren said he's hoping for more medals at the first Winter Games of the 21st century -- Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 games.
     Canada's impressive medal showing at Nagano came despite disappointing performances in men's hockey and freestyle skiing -- both shut out of the medals.
     And there were no gold medals in women's hockey or men's curling.
     But Warren won his loudest cheers Monday when he reminded Canadian Olympians they were bringing home more medals than the Americans, attending similar ceremonies south of the border.
     One of Canada's medallists said the games are good for Canada.
     "I think the Olympics are great for unifying this country," said Dave McEachern, half the two-man bobsled team that won gold.
     "Let's keep on going."
     Silver medallist Susan Auch, winner in the 500-metre longtrack speed skate, hailed the unity of the Canadian team.
     "Everybody has been just so incredibly supportive of sports they didn't watch or know much about before because we're so focused on the ones that we're in," she said.
     Auch noted even the hockey players were part on the community of Canadian Olympians.
     But some of the hockey players were not quite as cheery as they came home to Canada.
     Canada, favored to win the gold as the NHL made players available to represent their countries for the first time, finished off of the podium.
     Canada suffered a heartbreaking shootout loss in the semifinal to the eventual gold-medallists, the Czech Republic, and then lost 3-2 to Finland in the bronze medal game.
     "It's tough," said a subdued Trevor Linden, recently traded to the New York Islanders after a decade with Vancouver Canucks.
     "We had our hearts and minds set on winning gold. So there's obviously a letdown there."
     Canadian defenceman Rob Blake was equally grim.
     "We went over there with one thing in mind and that was to bring home the gold and it's really frustrating," said Blake.
     "We tried but it didn't work out the way we wanted it to. It's disappointing."
     But head coach Mark Crawford said he's proud of his team and won't be second-guessing their performance.
     "We've got nothing to look back on and really question," said Crawford.