Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Funday - Dan Jansen

Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair were the most compelling American speedskaters between 1984 and 1994. Bonnie Blair was compelling because of her record setting performances while Dan Jansen was compelling for his heart wrenching falls.

Bonnie Blair feels like a native Cheesehead but she was actually born in New York and raised in Champaign, Illinois so although Blair is the most decorated winter Olympian with 6 medals (5 gold medals and 1 bronze medal) going into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics,FN1 she does not fit the Cheesehead criteria for "Sunday Funday."

Onto the real Cheesehead, Dan Jansen who is a native of West Allis, Wisconsin. Jansen was a very accomplished junior speedskater, he set junior world records which lead to his first Olympic appearance in 1984 in Sarajevo where he finished 4th in the 500 meters speedskating competition.

On the heels of a strong showing in the 1984 Olympics, Jansen was a favorite to medal in the 500 and 1,000 meter speedskating competitions in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Unfortunately, Jansen found out that he lost his sister to leukemia during the 1988 Winter Olympics. With a heavy heart, Jansen still competed in the 500 and 1,000 meter speedskating competitions but fell in both resulting in no medals for the second straight Olympics for Jansen.

Jansen was the prohibitive favorite again in 1992 in the 500 and 1,000 meter speedskating competitions in Albertville, France. Again Jansen failed to medal in either competition.

After the 1992 Summer and Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee decided to stagger the events instead of having them in the same calendar year. As a result, the Winter Olympics were staged in 1994 (only two years after their last installment in Albertville, France) in Lillehammer, Norway which benefited Jansen since he probably would have been too old by speedskating standard to compete if they were held in 1996.

The 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, NorwayFN2 started out much like 1984, 1988 and 1992 when Jansen failed to medal in his best event, the 500 meter. Instead of hanging his head, Jansen competed in the 1,000 with relatively low expectations. What a competition that 1,000 meters speedskating competition was for Jansen. On February 18, 1994 Jansen set a World Record of 1:12.43 in the 1,000 meters speedskaing competition. Jansen celebrating his gold medal and world record setting performance is one of the most iconic images in Olympic history and our Sunday Funday Olympic moment to remember.

FN1: Apollo Anton Ono tied Blair when he won a silver medal in 1,500 meter short-track on Saturday, February 13, 2010 to raise his all-time winter Olympic medal count to 6 medals (2 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 2 bronze medals). Ono has a chance to eclipse Blair with two events remaining in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

FN2: Jansen actually competed in Hammar, Norway where all of the skating portions of the 1994 Winter Olympics were held.

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