No Good Time For Tragedy
Jane Jansen, Dan's older sister, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1987, which devastated the entire family. He had guilt feelings about continuing to train, travel, and compete while his sister was struggling for her life in the hospital, but Jane encouraged him keep it up. On February 14, 1988, the morning of his 500-meter race, Jane Jansen died, leaving behind three small daughters and an incredibly close family who loved her.
Geraldine Jansen encouraged her son to go ahead and skate his race. After an emotional day, Jansen recalls stepping onto the ice that night and feeling like he had not skated in six months. After a rare false start, Jansen skated poorly, much slower than usual. As he headed into a turn, he slipped and fell hard, taking Japan's Yasushi Kuroiwa down with him. All eyes were on Jansen that day, "But from that moment forward I was unofficially ordained Dan Jansen, The Guy Who Fell on the Day His Sister Died," he recalled wryly in Full Circle.
Hoping to be able to make something good come from the Games, Jansen dedicated his 1000-meter race to Jane. He got off the starting block confidently, and led the field for the first 600 meters, thinking to himself, "Do it for Jane." 200 meters short of the finish, he was down again. The Calgary Olympics had been a bust for Jansen, who now had to return home to bury his sister. He received more than seven thousand letters after the Games. Just three weeks after the Olympics, Jansen sprang back to win a World Cup 500-meter race in Savalen, Norway, and placed second in the 1,000. Afraid he couldn't maintain his stride until the next Olympics, Jansen took a few college courses. But in a turn, his skating actually improved in the four years between 1988 and the 1992 Games in Albertville, France.
Just as he had at Calgary, Jansen entered Albertville on a positive wave. Several weeks before the Games, he skated the best 500 of his life at the Olympic trials, and then beat his own time three weeks later at a World Cup meet in Davos, Switzerland. On the day of his first event, the 500, however, things took a turn. Warm temperatures and rain created poor ice conditions on the outdoor oval and, though he stayed upright, turned in an uncompetitive time, placing fourth. Jansen admits that he was unprepared, mentally or physically, to perform in the 1,000 three days later. He tired badly and finished in 26th place. His critics called him an Olympic choker. The fact that his next shot at an Olympics was only two years away was a small consolation.