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Gagnon makes individual gains

Marc Gagnon had been skating since he was three, and competing from the age of four. He was a short track world champion before he was out of his teens and made his first Winter Games debut in 1994, taking a bronze in the 1,000m.

Four years later he got his hands on his first Olympic gold when he was part of Canada’s victorious 5,000m relay team in Nagano, but, the medal he really craved was an individual Olympic gold.

Gagnon sat out the whole of the 1999 season before returning to focus his energies on preparing for the 2002 Games. At the 2001 World Championships, he took gold in the 1,500m and silver in the 3,000m, so by the time he arrived in Salt Lake City his world-class reputation was still firmly intact.

In the 1,000m, he suffered the nightmare of disqualification at the quarter-final stage for obstructing a Japanese skater. In the 1,500m, by contrast, a judges' decision worked in his favour, with Gagnon benefiting from the disqualification of South Korean Kim Dong-Seong, which promoted him onto the podium and gave him the bronze medal behind champion Apolo Anton Ohno of the USA.

That left him with two events – the 500m and the 5,000m relay – both of which took place on the same day. First up was the 500m, which had produced some mixed memories for Gagnon. At the previous two editions of the Winter Games, Gagnon had performed well but on both occasions had fallen at a crucial point in the final and just missed out on a medal.

The 2002 final did not include either Ohno, who had been disqualified in his semi-final, or Kim, who narrowly failed to qualify. Gagnon meanwhile was in the mix for the third Games running, and perhaps his biggest challenge was holding his nerve and ensuring he didn’t fall again.

The pace was quick, which seemed to suit Gagnon. In a sprint to the line, he finished ahead of team-mate Jonathan Guilmette to seal his first individual Olympic gold.

Later that evening, he and Guilmette returned to the ice to line up for the Canadian relay team. Pitched against China, Italy and the United States, Gagnon and his team-mates won quite easily because each of the other finalists saw one of their skaters hit the ice. In a moment that Canadian fans remember with particular glee, they even lapped the USA. Gagnon won his second gold medal of the day, bringing a spectacular end to a glittering career.

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