They are remembered simply, sadly, as The Falls. They are among the most poignant moments of Olympic history.
During the 1988 Winter Games In Calgary, Dan Jansen, a gold-medal favorite, came out on the ice to skate the 500 meters only hours after learning that his sister had died of leukemia. As he rounded the first turn, the weight of the agonizing news seemed to crush him to the ice. Four days later Jansen tried again in the 1,000 nd again he fell, this time on a straightway. "It was very hard realizing that all my accomplishments didn't seem to matter, that all I would be known for was falling in the Olympics," he says. He need time just to believe "that it wasn't going to happen again." Since then, Jansen has matured and married-and emerged, at 26, ready for another run at the gold.
Since winning the 1988 World Sprint Championships on his home turf in West Allis, Wis., he's been America's most consistent male speed skater. This season Jansen has skated stride for stride in the 500 with defending Olympic gold-medalist Uwe-Jens Mey and last month broke the German's world record. Albertville will require extraordinary mental toughness for Jansen. "All I con do is give my very best and hope that everybody will be satisfied," he says. Yet Calgary forever altered his perspective. Losing a sister was a lot bigger deal than winning a medal could ever be," he says. "Winning the gold can never again be the most important thing in my life.