- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

KEARNS, Utah (AP) Bonnie Blair can rest easy. Catriona Le May Doan won't be going for a third straight gold medal.

The Canadian became just the second woman to repeat as 500-meter speedskating champion last night, putting her within one gold of matching Blair's three Olympics streak.

"People ask me all the time if I compare myself to Bonnie Blair," Le May Doan said. "Not at all. We're two completely different people. She's an amazing skater."

So is Le May Doan, who insists that she won't be coaxed into pursuing Blair's record of three in a row, set in 1988, 1992 and 1994.

The 31-year-old, who carried the flag for Canada in the Opening Ceremony, plans to retire after next season.

"This is over and above anything I ever dreamed of," she said. "You get to the point where you want to do other things."

Le May Doan crossed the line in 37.45 seconds, giving her an aggregate time in the two-day event of 1 minute, 14.75 seconds.

She easily defeated a pair of Germans. Monique Garbrecht-Enfeldt (1:14.94) won the silver, and Sabine Volker (1:15.19) took the bronze.

Surprisingly, Le May Doan failed to break her own world record of 37.22, even though she finished on the more favorable outer lane. She did leave with a pair of Olympic records: 37.30, set Wednesday, and a two-day total that eclipsed her mark of 1:16.60 from four years ago.

"I would have loved for the record to drop again," Le May Doan said. "I didn't race my best, so I wasn't able to break my record."

This was the second straight event in which the previous world record stood up. So much for those predictions that all 10 marks would fall on the fast ice of the Utah Olympic Oval.

Le May Doan said her legs tightened up after 300 meters.

"I knew with about 50 meters to go it was enough," she said. "It wasn't a great race."

Le May Doan was an overwhelming favorite in the 500. She arrived at Salt Lake City having won 18 or her last 19 races, including all six World Cup events this season.

Her latest victory provided some salve for a nation's wounded psyche.

Canada finally earned its first gold medal of these Games after several wrenching disappointments: Jeremy Wotherspoon fell in the men's 500 and a disputed decision relegated Jamie Sale and David Pelletier to a silver in pairs figure skating.

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