CALGARY, FEB. 14 -- It was the first full day of the Winter Olympics and all was in place, but even a well-planned world event can't stop the wind, or the bitter march of fate.
Today, instead of celebrating the start of 16 days of competition, the Olympic community was subdued by the death of the sister of Dan Jansen, the United States' best hope for a men's speed skating medal.
And tonight, that hope ended in a stunning spill on the first turn of Jansen's race in the 500-meter event. Matched against Yasushi Kuroiwa of Japan, Jansen first had a false start. Then, after getting off clean on the next start, he lost his balance on the first turn, fell in front of Kuroiwa, then smacked into a barrier on the side of the rink.
As he got up, a look of incredulity on his face, he raised his arms skyward, then buried his face in his hands as he skated off the course. He will have another chance for a medal Thursday night in the 1,000, but the 500 was regarded as his best chance.
"It was so fast, I can't remember much," Jansen, the world sprint champion, said. "It felt like it slipped out from under me and the next thing I knew I was in the mats."
Jansen said he felt in warm-ups that he was not gripping the ice well.
"As soon as he fell, my heart sank," said team captain Erik Henriksen, who finished 15th. "I'm not used to seeing so many things go so bad so fast and seeing a time that's supposed to be so wonderful as the Olympics turn so sour."
In a recent interview, Jansen had said he was concerned about the turns in Calgary's indoor oval, where he had a terrible time staying upright in a competition last fall. "You've got to have good turns," Jansen said. "The speed is so high, if you can't hold your turns, you're out of it."
Skating two pairings after Jansen's fall, Jens-Uwe Mey, the East German who was second to him in the World Sprint championships in West Allis, Wis., last weekend, won the gold medal in the 500 with a world-record performance of 36.45 seconds. That bettered Jansen's former record by one-tenth of a second.
The other top U.S. medal hope in the 500, Nick Thometz, also false-started, then was slow off the line. "I didn't see Dan go down, but it shocked me," said Thometz, who finished eighth.
"He seemed a little different, like you might expect," Thometz said of Jansen. "That might have been a part of the reason, when you don't concentrate 100 percent."
Said U.S. Coach Mike Crowe: "I spoke to Dan after the race and he said he didn't like the way the ice felt. He said that the ice felt funny. I don't know if the other things had anything to do with it."
This morning, hours before her brother's race, Jane Jansen Beres, 27-year-old mother of three girls, died in West Allis of leukemia.
Dan Jansen, youngest of nine children, last week dedicated his performance here to her and vowed to bring any medal he won home to her. "She certainly deserves it," he said.
Jansen said he was racing at his sister's insistence and would have quit in a minute if she asked. "It makes all this seem unimportant," he said after a workout on Tuesday.
Word of Beres' death cast a pall on events, which were hampered for a second straight day by high winds.
Today, wild, unpredictable gusts of up to 98 mph delayed and finally forced postponement of the premier event, the men's downhill ski race at Mount Allan.
Organizers said the downhill would be rescheduled for Monday at 1:30 p.m. EST. That would push back by 24 hours the combined event, which includes a downhill and a slalom. The combined downhill had been scheduled Monday, to be followed by the combined slalom on Tuesday.
Officials said that if the high winds force another postponement of the downhill Monday, they would try to run the combined downhill on a lower part of the mountain. The forecast indicated that winds should be no more than 20 mph.
Two conflicting weather fronts collided overnight at the 7,500-foot mountaintop, creating swirling tempests. "It was impossible to come down in such conditions," said Swiss Coach Karl Frehsner.
It was a worst-case scenario for ABC-TV, which was banking on the downhill to carry the first half of its all-day coverage.
Instead of Pirmin Zurbriggen and Peter Mueller, the network spent the afternoon covering ski jumping and France against Sweden in hockey, with frequent cuts to the top of the mountain, where officials looked like polar explorers on a bad day.
Finland's Matti Nykanen easily won the 70-meter ski jump with a pair of near-hill record jumps. His two jumps of 89.5 meters at Canada Olympic Park just outside town easily outdistanced the efforts of Czechoslovakian teammates Pavel Ploc and Jiri Malec. Ploc had jumps of 84.5 and 87.0, but more style points to take the silver. Malec won the bronze with leaps of 88 and 85.5.
"I wasn't really surprised because I have had a series of very good results this year and I was confident," Nykanen said. Asked if he went into the competition concerned about a particular rival, Nykanen said, "Not really."
As foul as the weather was on Mount Allan for the Alpine events, it was moderate at the Canmore Nordic Center, 15 miles farther west and 3,800 feet down in the valley, where the first medals of the Games were taken by two Soviets and a Finn in the 10-kilometer women's cross-country race.
Vida Ventsene, 23, a Soviet student in her third season of international racing, beat her veteran teammate, Raisa Smetanina, by 8.7 seconds to take the gold. Marjo Matikainen of Finland was third, another 3 1/2 seconds back.
The day's first hockey game turned into a rout as Sweden bombed last-seeded France, 13-2.
The game was tied, 1-1, after the first period, but 45 seconds into the second period, Hakan Sodergren scored with a wrist shot, starting a run of eight straight Swedish goals. The Swedes scored nine goals in the second period.
The Canadian team, the heavy favorite in this game and a medal contender, posted an unimpressive 1-0 victory over eighth-seeded Poland.
Marc Habscheid scored 4:22 into the game, but then goalie Gabriel Samolej shut down the fourth-seeded Canadians.
The first two heats of the men's luge competition were completed, with Jens Mueller, 22, of East Germany taking the lead over European champion Georg Hackl of West Germany. Mueller's runs totalled 1:32.745, compared with 1:32.908 for Hackl. Soviet national champion Iouri Khartchenko was third at 1:32.996 and Austria's Markus Prock, a favorite in the competition, was fifth at 1:33.064.
"I am more concerned with Prock's performance tomorrow than I am with Hackl because Prock can have two fantastic runs and he's a more serious threat for the gold," Mueller said. The final two heats will be held Monday.
Jansen said he would be back for the 1,000 meters Thursday. "Jane wanted that," he said.
U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran said Jansen was notified of his sister's worsening condition by team officials early today, at the family's request. Jansen spoke with his brother Mike at 6 a.m. and asked him to give his sister a kiss. Jansen also spoke with his sister at that time.
He said she understood him but could not respond. "She was still alive. She could understand what I said and I'm very happy for that," he said.
At a team meeting this morning, the speed skaters announced they were dedicating their Olympic performance to their teammate. USOC official Bob Cornell said that seemed to lift Jansen's spirits.
His sister had been ill for a year, but the leukemia was in remission until late January.
Her death marks the third straight year hardship has struck Jansen at the height of his season. Two years ago he sliced tendons in a foot in an accident; last year he had mononucleosis.
Jansen's father and mother, who were here to watch him race, went home hurriedly Saturday night to West Allis. "It was up to Dan," Harry Jansen said today of his son's decision to compete. "He was told he wasn't doing it for us. If he was skating, he was doing it for Jane and for himself . . . she was proud of him. She wanted him to go for it."
Funeral services will be held on Saturday.