"When I grew up in the sport," he says, "I learned to relax and skate my own races."
"Relax," as Boucher uses it, is a relative term. "Pressure will always be there," he says, "but it will only be pressure from myself. Others can never be as disappointed in me as I can be. They go away from seeing me race badly and forget in a week. I live with it."
North American speed skating is obscure and austerely amateur. It's good to remember, in attempting to understand how skating wins its disciples, that the Latin root of the term amateur means "from the heart."
"I never thought of the lack of money and public interest as obstacles," says Boucher. "I only thought of my skating. I kept to the idea that anything that would happen to me as a result of it would be a bonus."
His early career would have been magnificent but for Heiden, whom he celebrates for talent, achievement and not having been ruined by the acclaim that came to him. Heiden quit at 21, after his five golds in Lake Placid and went to cycling, TV work and medical school. Boucher kept skating. Then, in March 1983, he thought it was all over. During a workout on a short track laid out on a hockey rink, the ice seemed to turn to chalk under his skates, and he ended up against the boards. His left ankle was broken and several ligaments in it torn. Heading into surgery, he asked, "Doctor, will I skate again?"
"I knew ligaments take a year or more, to mend," Boucher says. "There wasn't enough time before the Sarajevo Olympics."
But there was. Ice treatments and stretching had him ready in six months. Never a true sprinter, Boucher nonetheless opened at Sarajevo by getting the bronze in the 500, which assured him that he had his speed. All he had to do was carry it.
In the 1,000, he skated in the 10th pair; the favorites all had finished before he bent to the gun. "I knew their splits; I knew the time to beat," he says. He crossed the line and saw his coach. Jack Walters, with his thumbs up. He had won.
Two days later, he won the 1,500 as well. His haul made him the most bemedaled Canadian Winter Olympian ever. Montreal was electrified, and Quebec nationalism flared up. "Quebec 3, Canada 0," crowed Quebec's then Premier René Levesque. Said Boucher coolly, "I don't compete for French Canada or English Canada, but Canada as a whole."