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Le May-Doan Breaks Day-Old Record, Wins 500

By Doug Ferguson
Associated Press
Saturday, February 14, 1998; 4:05 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan — Catriona Le May-Doan's stunning success on clap skates brought her from nowhere a year ago to an Olympic gold medal.

Le May-Doan gave Canada its first gold in women's speedskating Saturday and broke her day-old Olympic record in the 500 meters, beating out teammate Susan Auch.

Le May-Doan finished in 38.21 seconds for a two-race total of 1 minute, 16.60 seconds. She immediately hugged Auch, the silver medalist for the second straight Winter Olympics.

Tomomi Okazaki repeated her 38.55 from the previous day and gave Japan an unexpected bronze medal.

Chris Witty of West Allis, Wis., in sixth going into the second race, was even slower with a 39.44 and wound up 10th.

The Maple Leaf flags were out in droves, everyone anticipating what the World Cup season has proved — no one has managed to beat the Canadians on the clap skates.

Maybe Le May-Doan didn't face the same pressure as Hiroyasu Shimizu of Japan, who won the men's 500 with a nation's hopes riding on the race. Still, the expectations may have been even higher.

Le May-Doan simply set herself apart from everyone else during the World Cup season, so dominant that it seemed as if she only had to show up to win — five golds and one silver in six World Cup races this season.

All she had to do was skate a solid race — as the only woman to break the 38-second barrier, it didn't even have to be perfect.

"With a good race, I should win it,'' she had said time and again with casual confidence.

For the second straight race, the 31-year-old Auch was faster down the first 100 meters. But it wasn't long before Le May-Doan let her powerful thighs and rocking motion make up ground — and then some.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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