Le May Doan wins second 500 gold in a rowPosted: Thursday February 14, 2002 8:30 PM
Updated: Friday February 15, 2002 1:56 AM
KEARNS, Utah (AP) -- Bonnie Blair can rest easy. Catriona Le May Doan won't be going for a third consecutive gold medal.
The Canadian became just the second woman to repeat as 500-meter speedskating champion on Thursday night, putting her within one gold of matching Blair's three Olympics streak.
"People ask me all the time if I compare myself to Bonnie Blair," Le May Doan said. "Not at all. We're two completely different people. She's an amazing skater."
So is Le May Doan, who insists that she won't be coaxed into pursuing Blair's record of three in a row, set in 1988, '92 and '94.
The 31-year-old, who carried the flag for Canada in the opening ceremony, plans to retire after next season.
"This is over and above anything I ever dreamed of," she said. "You get to the point where you want to do other things."
Le May Doan crossed the line in 37.45 seconds, giving her an aggregate time in the two-day event of 1 minute, 14.75 seconds.
She easily defeated a pair of Germans. Monique Garbrecht-Enfeldt (1:14.94) won the silver and Sabine Volker (1:15.19) took the bronze.
Surprisingly, Le May Doan failed to break her own world record of 37.22, even though she finished on the more favorable outer lane. She did leave with a pair of Olympic records: 37.30, set Wednesday, and a two-day total that eclipsed her mark of 1:16.60 from four years ago.
"I would have loved for the record to drop again," Le May Doan said. "I didn't race my best, so I wasn't able to break my record."
Le May Doan said her legs tightened up after 300 meters, so she just focused on doing enough to win the gold.
"I knew with about 50 meters to go, it was enough," she said. "It wasn't a great race."
Le May Doan was an overwhelming favorite in the 500. She arrived at Salt Lake City having won 18 or her last 19 races, including all six World Cup events this season.
Her latest victory provided some salve for a nation's wounded psyche.
Canada finally earned its first gold medal of these games after several wrenching disappointments: Jeremy Wotherspoon fell in the men's 500 and a disputed decision relegated Jamie Sale and David Pelletier to a silver in pairs figure skating.
Le May Doan took a victory lap lugging a red-and-white Canadian flag, with a small banner attached to it representing her home province of Saskatchewan. On the backstretch, husband Bart Doan -- a rodeo cowboy and icemaker at the Calgary Olympic Oval -- gave her his cowboy hat.
"I hope with this medal people are sort of re-encouraged," Le May Doan said. "The Olympics are not even half-over. They're just beginning. We can still have a great competition."
Garbrecht-Enfeldt, skating in the final pair with Le May Doan, clinched second place with a run of 37.60. She picked up her second Olympic medal 10 years after the first, having won a bronze in the 1,000 at Albertville.
"It's really hard to put into words," she said. "It's been a tough, long time since I won that medal."
Garbrecht-Enfeldt finally claimed a 500 medal after finishing sixth in 1994 and eighth four years ago.
Volker earned her first Olympic medal and will be one of the contenders in the 1,000, along with Garbrecht-Enfeldt and Le May Doan.
The top two finishers from the first day held their position, but Andrea Nuyt of the Netherlands dropped from third to fourth after a slight slip on the final turn, causing her left hand to scrape the ice.
Volker moved up from fifth to third, beating Nuyt by 0.18 seconds.
"When I finished I didn't think I had won a medal," said Volker, who was fourth in the 1,000 at Nagano. "I said, 'Oh my god, please don't let me be fourth place again.'"
The Americans were not a factor.
Chris Witty, still weak after a bout with mononucleosis, was 14th out of 31 skaters with a time of 1:16.73. The 500 is not her best event, but she wanted to use it as a warmup for Sunday's 1,000.
"I actually think I have a lot of speed considering how little I've worked the last few days," Witty said. "I feel comfortable with that."
Witty won the only two American speedskating medals at Nagano four years ago. She still has lingering doubts about how she'll perform in the 1,000 and 1,500, her stronger races.
"When you rest, the one thing you lose first is the strength," Witty said. "I haven't had time to do a lot of speed work, so doing races is going to help me. I just hope that'll be enough. Each race I get better, so hopefully by the 1,000, I'll have it."
Becky Sundstrom of Glen Ellyn, Ill., was 20th in 1:17.60. Second-generation Olympian Elli Ochowicz slipped just a few strides into her race and finished 22nd in 1:17.71.
Amy Sannes of St. Paul, Minn., didn't finish, wiping out on the first turn.