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Dan Jansen

Gold, Finally

By the time he arrived in Lillehammer, Norway for the Olympic Games, Jansen had won seven overall World Cup titles and set seven world records. He opted out of the opening ceremonies to prepare for his first event, the 500-meter race, set to take place just two days later. Jansen was remaining calm and quiet before the Games, leaving his expectations at a minimum. As he humbly pointed out in his autobiography, after missing the bronze in 1984 by 16-hundreths of a second, tragedy in 1988, and suffering slow ice and burnout in 1992, "The only thing left was for the Zamboni to run over me on the last turn, and we just didn't think that would happen."

Jansen was paired against Canadian Sean Ireland in the 500. After a false start by Ireland, Jansen was not skating his quickest, but was in the lead. Heading into the last turn, however, he slipped and his hand touched the ice, costing him valuable time. His parents, three eldest siblings, and wife and daughter were watching from the stands, and their hearts broke to see Jansen miss his chance yet again. His family did not weep for the missed medal, as the media misconstrued, but for Jansen and his run of Olympic disappointments. Jansen felt the "sadness of realization," he recalled in Full Circle. "I'm probably the best ever, but I am not going to win an Olympic medal in the 500 meters."

Chronology

1965 Born June 17 in West Allis, Wisconsin
1972 Chooses speed skating over hockey, begins training with Dianne Holum
1975 Makes his first Junior World Championship team
1976 Wins 1,500-meter event at Junior World Championship
1976 Competes in his first Senior World Championship
1977 Becomes first American to win World Championship
1980 Becomes first to sweep Junior World, World, and World Spring championships
1984 Sweeps Junior World, World, and World Spring championships
1984 Competes in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia Olympics
1988 Competes in Calgary, Canada Olympics
1992 Competes in Albertville, France Olympics
1994 Wins Olympic gold medal in Lillehammer, Norway

Awards and Accomplishments

1985 Third place, world championships
1986 Second place, world championships
1988 First place, world championships
1992 Second place, world championships
1994 First place, world championships
1994 Gold medal, 1,000-meter race, Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway

With one chance left to win an Olympic medal, Jansen set about practicing furiously for the 1,000-meter race, and psyching himself up to win it. He recalls feeling "off" the day of the 1,000, but knew he was ready when it was time to skate. He settled into a steady rhythm right away, and repeated in his mind, "I love the 1,000 … I love the 1,000." He seemed to be in control of the race when, 300 meters from the finish, he slipped and put his left hand down toward the ice. Despite his Olympic history, Jansen is not a skater who falls often, but the crowd collectively gasped when it happened, likely thinking "Oh no, not again!" He regained his form, and pushed toward the finish, and the crowd saw his world-record time, 1:12.43, before he did. He carried his baby daughter Jane with him around the rink on his victory lap.

Jansen was chosen to carry the American flag in the closing ceremony of the Lillehammer Games. After a whirlwind three weeks, he headed to Heerenveen, the Netherlands, to skate the season's final World Cup meet. Though he was unprepared for the event, he took second in the 500 and first in the 1,000, seizing the overall World Cup championship. After a decade of ups and downs at the top of his sport, Jansen retired.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsSpeed SkatingDan Jansen Biography - The Skating Jansens, Overcame Physical Setbacks, No Good Time For Tragedy, Gold, Finally - SELECTED WRITINGS BY JANSEN: