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Speed Skating - Jansen preseveres in face of tragedy

Triumph is not always about winning medals or setting records, but about the way a person deals with adversity.


A string of World Cup victories had put US speed skater Dan Jansen among the favourites for both the 500m and 1,000m events. Just a week before the Games, he had won the world sprint title and seemed well placed to push for gold in Calgary.

But then, on the very day of the 500m, he received some appalling news. His sister Jane Beres, who was very ill with leukaemia, had deteriorated and Jansen was told that she was close to death. He called her and passed on a message and, while she could no longer talk, she managed to indicate that she wanted him to stay in Calgary and race. A little later on, less than three hours after Jansen had spoken to his sister, he was informed that she had died.

Nobody would have blamed him had be withdrawn from competition, but he decided to carry on. Inspired by his sister's dying wish, he took to the ice later that afternoon. Despite being egged on by a hugely supportive crowd, he slipped and fell at the first turn; it was a cruel twist of fate.

A few days later in the 1,000m, after making a very fast start, he fell once again, leaving him to return home without a medal. He was, however, awarded the US Olympic Spirit Award for his decision to continue competing in the face of such appalling news.

Jansen again missed out on a medal at the 1992 Winter Games but finally made it onto an Olympic podium after winning the 1,000m title at Lillehammer 1994. He dedicated his victory to his sister and did a lap of honour carrying his own young daughter, who was named Jane.

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