American skater Dan Jansen shatters his Olympic jinx FINALLY, A GOLD LILLEHAMMER '94

February 18, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Correspondent

HAMAR, Norway -- Ten years and 1,000 meters later, Dan Jansen got his Olympic gold medal.

In the race of his life -- and his career -- tragedy-tinged Jansen nearly slipped on a corner and nearly wavered down the stretch. But he recovered in time to set a world record and win the gold medal in the 1,000 meters today at the Winter Olympics.

His time of 1:12.43 shocked the standing-room-only crowd of 12,000. As Jansen circled the ice after his triumph, his arms waving over his head, the audience shrieked.

"Finally," Jansen said.

In the stands, his family wept. His wife, Robin, held her hands over her head and cried uncontrollably. His mother and father hugged, and his 8 1/2 -month-old baby daughter Jane was held up by his mother-in-law.

"I guess good guys do win," said the U.S. coach, Peter Mueller.

Men's figure skater Brian Boitano, who was practicing, raised his hands and began applauding.

Igor Zhelezovsky of Bulgaria earned the silver. Sergey Klevchenya of Russia won the bronze.

Jansen's time was 0.11 seconds faster than the mark Canada's Kevin Scott set in December. The Wisconsin skater then had to wait more than an hour for the other skaters to finish and his mark to hold up.

This was an astonishing conclusion to a story of an American speed skater using grit and courage to overcome heartbreak and defeat.

Jansen made his Olympic debut 10 years ago in Sarajevo and was fourth in the 500. But it was in 1988 in Calgary where Jansen's career took a devastating turn.

On the morning of his first race in the 500, his sister Jane Jansen Beres died of leukemia. Jansen raced and fell. And two nights later in the 1,000, he raced and fell again.

Four years later in Albertville, France, he hesitated on the final turn in the 500 and finished fourth. He was 26th in the 1,000.

And here in Norway, he slipped again in Monday's 500, falling to eighth, apparently losing his last chance at an Olympic gold.

But Jansen, a sprinter by inclination, stretched his sights to the 1,000. Finally, this morning, Jansen and a racing moment came together at the Olympics.

"I felt kind of relaxed the first 600 meters," he said. "Strangely enough, I heard the crowd get really loud."

Soon, there was a gasp, as Jansen appeared to slip going around the second to last turn and his hand nearly brushed the ice. But he quickly righted himself.

"I said, 'Don't push too hard, you're going too fast. Just stay down and skate,' " Jansen said.

Jansen recovered and raced on, the crowd screaming, a sea of waving American and Norwegian flags pushing him on.

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