The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Catriona Le May Doan

Speed-Skating

2002


Action photo of speed skater Catriona Le May Doan

Action photo of speed skater Catriona Le May Doan

Date
February 19, 1998
Collection
The Canadian Press/Lynne Sladky

“She’s the Boss in the 500!”

Catriona Le May Doan has been dubbed the fastest woman in the world. It is a completely legitimate claim. Speed skating is the fastest human powered, non-mechanical aided sport in the world, and Catriona is driven to perfection in the sport’s quickest event, the 500 metre, her specialty.

The 500 metre event consists of two heats. Although competitors skate in pairings, it’s a race against the clock, counting the cumulative time of both heats, leaving no room for a slip or a mistake. Catriona sets the bar exceptionally high placing immense pressure on herself. Nowhere is that more evident than at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Le May Doan is sitting hunched over in the centre of the speed skating oval after the first heat. She has just set an Olympic record of 37.30 and is in first place, yet she is mad. Monique Garbrecht-Enfeldt from Germany stages the performance of her life and that leaves her just a heartbeat – 4/100ths of a second – behind Catriona. However, Catriona has so dominated this discipline that her margins of victory have typically been 3/10ths to 4/10ths of a second. In the 500 metre, that’s a convincing win – she expected no less here.

Her results and legendary consistency say it all. She set the world record in 1997 becoming the first woman to break the 38 second barrier in the 500 metre. The ink in the record books would not dry over the next four years as she became the only woman to set eight consecutive world records in one distance. In 1998, at her third Olympics in Nagano, Japan, at age 27, she took home the top prize while collecting an additional bronze in the 1000 metre. Gold did not diminish her appetite for improvement. She embraced the next goals in her continuum – get faster, get better, continue to stay at the top. In the lead-up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City she was virtually unbeaten, winning 17 of 18 races, including the World Sprint Championship in Hamar, Norway, just weeks before.

Indicative of the immense respect she commands, Sabine Völker, a friend and competitor in the 500 metre from the German team comes over after Heat 1 and offers Catriona thoughtful assurance, “you’re better than that…you’ll be better tomorrow.”

For Catriona the next twenty-four hours are filled with excruciating stress. She leans on her remarkable support group which includes her husband, and when she returns to the oval for Heat 2 the reassuring looks of her entire team, and the faces of her competitors sizing her up confirm that this is her place, and that she is ready. She is paired against Monique. For Catriona the race is a blur except for the distinct sound of Monique’s blades behind her with about 20 metres to go. She knew she had it.

Catriona makes history. In her very last Olympics she becomes the first Canadian to defend an individual gold at any event in the Olympics. How sweet is that?

Monique Garbrecht-Enfeldt, the silver medalist, says of the champion, “She’s the boss in the 500!” Her classy friend Sabine Völker takes the bronze.

With her trademark infectious smile, both her native Saskatchewan and Canada flags in hand, and sporting a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, Catriona gives Canadians a victory lap that will not soon be forgotten.

Victory by a thin edge Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1996-2002
Speed Skating Canada Female athlete of the year—long track (co-winner in 2001)
1998
Nagano Olympic Games - Gold medal, 500m
1998
Nagano Olympic Games - Bronze medal, 1,000m
1998
Velma Springstead Trophy
1998
Bobbie Rosenfeld Award
2001
Velma Springstead Trophy
2001
Bobbie Rosenfeld Award
2002
Salt Lake City Olympic Games - Gold medal, 500m
2002
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
2002
Velma Springstead Trophy
2002
Bobbie Rosenfeld Award
2005
Named to the Order of Canada