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Jansen on Medal Pace but Takes Fall

February 19, 1988|Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta — Dan Jansen tried to forget death and defeat and think about the medal yet to be won, but the world wouldn't let him.

For the four days after his sister's death and his fall in the 500 meters, the speed skater's best event, calls and cards poured into the Olympic village from around the world. The U.S. luge team sent flowers. Hometown boosters sent a 96-foot banner: "Dan be strong! Keep the faith! Wisconsin is with you all the way!"

And through it all, Jansen struggled to concentrate on Thursday's 1,000-meter race, his last chance this Olympics to win a medal in Jane's memory.

But it was not meant to be. With a crowd roaring in support, Jansen fell. On a straightaway.

He recorded the fastest time for the first 200 meters, but he fell shortly after crossing the 600-meter mark in 44.02 seconds, the fastest time of the day to that point.

His worst fears and those of millions with their hearts in the race had come true.

"I'm afraid for him," his mother, Geraldine Jansen, said before the race from the family home near at West Allis, Wis., which has been flooded with mail from well-wishers across the nation. "He's been trying to get it out of his mind. But he said that just when he's got it in perspective, somebody sends another goodwill message, a telegram or something, and then it all comes rushing back like the day it happened."

It happened on Sunday, the second day of Olympic competition. In the morning, Jane Jansen Beres, 27, died after a year-long battle with leukemia. Hours later, Jansen's hopes for a medal in her honor ended with a first-turn fall in the 500 meters that sent him crashing into the wall mats. He doubled over, head in hands, overcome by disbelief, disgust and despair.

"Maybe it just wasn't meant to be," the 22-year-old world sprint champion said.

Then he began preparing for Thursday.

"He's determined to skate a good race," said his mother, who spoke with her youngest son on Thursday. "He just doesn't know whether it's all going to come rushing back when he gets on the line."

Coach Mike Crowe said Jansen appeared to have rebounded from Sunday's double tragedy and skated well in practice.

"I think he's confident, he's a lot more up, a lot more focused, a lot more keyed on what he's doing," Crowe said Wednesday after the United States placed three skaters in the top 10 of the 5,000 meters. "I think he will be 100%."

At a meeting Sunday morning, the team dedicated its Olympic effort to Dan and Jane, two of nine children in a family that grew up skating through the long Wisconsin winters. Jane used to compete herself, before she became a nurse, married a fireman and had three daughters.

One brother, Mike, narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic team and remained in Calgary with another brother and sister to watch Dan's race.

A U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor brought in a private jet to fly Jansen and family to Milwaukee after the race. Jane's funeral was scheduled for Saturday.

"One of my daughters who was up in Calgary said it didn't seem real yet, it seemed like a dream. They were 1,600 miles away and they got a phone call, and the realization was not there yet," Mrs. Jansen said. "That's the way it was for her. But Dan, I'm sure he is really grieving."

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