CALGARY, FEB. 14 -- In the end, the accumulated burdens of a heartbreaking day were too much, and Dan Jansen stumbled and fell.

Jansen, the top-rated U.S. 500-meter speed skater, lost a skate edge in his race for Olympic gold tonight and went crashing into the barriers of the first turn of the speed skating oval here.

He was out of the race he'd trained four years for, and finally alone with thoughts of the sister he'd lost to leukemia this morning.

Jansen's all-day ordeal was over, and almost immediately Jens-Uwe Mey, the East German who was second to him in the World Sprint Championships in West Allis, Wis., last weekend, went on to the gold medal with a world record performance of 36.45 seconds.

The Netherlands' Jan Ykema won the silver in 36.76 and Japan's Akira Kuroiwa won the bronze in 36.77.

But the story that tugged at the hearts of the Olympic family on this second day of competition was Jansen's. The 22-year-old from Wisconsin was notified at 6 a.m. that his sister, Jane Jansen Beres, mother of three, was on her deathbed after a year-long battle with leukemia.

Jansen, who had been somber and worried all week about his sister's condition, phoned her a last time. She died at 9:55 a.m. The team quickly held a meeting and dedicated their performance here to Jansen. He went to a room in the Olympic Village where he spent much of the day thinking and making phone calls.

Jansen, the youngest of nine children, looked ashen when he took the ice. He was paired with Japanese Yasushi Kuroiwa in the second pairing of the evening, but they false-started once.

The second start was good, but Jansen, skating on the inside lane, lost his balance entering the first turn and skidded out of control across the ice, upending Kuroiwa. The Japanese was awarded a reskate at the end of the program.

But Jansen was done. He took a slow lap, holding his head, looked at the roof of the indoor oval in anguish and finally was embraced by U.S. Coach Mike Crowe.

"As far as the race went, I wasn't gripping the ice real well," Jansen said. "I had problems in the warmup. I felt I couldn't push as hard as I wanted."

It was the next-to-last chapter in a terrible day for the U.S. speed skaters, who had high hopes for Olympic medals in this, their best men's event.

The other top U.S. medal hope, Nick Thometz, also false-started in the next pairing to go off, then was slow off the line in his duel with Soviet Sergei Fokichev. Team captain Erik Henriksen finished 15th.

Thometz, who has been struggling to recover from a mysterious blood ailment that hospitalized him in December, never caught Fokichev and finished out of the medals at 36.82, well off his world record of 36.55.

"After the news this morning it was hard on myself and Nicky, who's one of my best friends, but we wanted to go out and try to do our best," Jansen said. He said his family "wanted me to do the best I could and put {the tragedy} out of my mind."

Jansen will race in the 1,000 Thursday.

"{The 1,000} is very important," he said. "My family doesn't want me to go home now, and I know Jane wouldn't."

As far as the effect of Jansen's ordeal on the team, Thometz said, "It's unfortunate. It came at a real bad time. It's difficult to be real up when you have a tragedy like that."

On the next pairing, Mey broke Thometz' record by one-tenth of a second at 36.45.

Jansen won the World Sprints handily last weekend and said this week that he was in the best form he could remember. But Jansen was extremely close to his sister Jane, he said, and had offered to serve as a blood and bone marrow donor last winter, although doctors chose a sister.

Jansen also said his sister had urged him to continue, though he'd have quit immediately if she asked. "She wants me to go out and do my best," he said. "I want to go out and do well for her because she fought so hard. I want to fight, too."

Thometz was never a factor in his race, finishing eighth. He started on the inside lane but Fokichev was off much quicker and had the lead by the end of the first turn.

After the race, Thometz, too, took a few slow cool-down laps, then went to the bench to comfort Jansen, his longtime training partner.