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Skater Falls In Race Dedicated To Sister, A Cancer Victim

February 15, 1988

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) _ Now more than ever, speed skater Dan Jansen is looking for a bright bit of gold to relieve the darkness.

On Sunday morning, Jane Jansen Beres died after a year-long battle with leukemia. Eight hours later, her youngest brother went onto the ice determined to hang an Olympic medal on her memory. Instead, there was a false start, and then a fall.

But Thursday is another day, another race, another chance to skate for Jane, to win for Jane.

″It’s very important,″ Jansen said of the upcoming 1,000-meter event. ″Once again, my family wants me to just go on now, and I know Jane would have wanted that.″

The world champion in the 500-meter sprint started Sunday’s race too fast, jumping the gun, and ended it far too soon, losing an edge swinging into the first turn. He slipped onto his left side, fought to get up, slipped again and slid across the ice, clipping the other skater and slamming into the mats along the wall.

″Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be,″ Jansen said.

Bouncing up, he threw his arms into the air in disbelief, slapped his thighs in disgust and doubled over, his head in his hands.

″As soon as he fell, my heart sank,″ said Erik Henriksen, the U.S. team captain. ″I’m not used to seeing so many bad things happen in a short period of time - at a time that’s supposed to be as wonderful as the Olympics.″

At a meeting Sunday morning, the team dedicated its Winter Games effort to Dan and Jane, and Coach Mike Crowe said that seemed to lift Jansen’s spirits.

Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday, two days after his last race. There never was any question he would compete.

″I’d always planned on staying and skating because that’s what Jane would have wanted,″ Dan said.

″It was up to Dan,″ said Jansen’s father, Harry, who went home Saturday to West Allis, Wis., near Milwaukee, when Jane’s condition worsened. ″He was told he wasn’t doing it for us. If he was skating, he was doing it for Jane and for himself.″

Although Jane was unable to make the trip to Calgary, she had planned to watch the race on television, and ABC had arranged to broadcast her reaction. At the last Winter Games at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, Jansen finished fourth in the 500-meter, just .16 seconds from the bronze medal.

″He’s always said he was dedicating his season to her,″ their father said. ″He felt sometimes he should have been here with her but she said, ‘No way.’ She was very proud of him. She wanted him to go for it.″

The nine Jansen children were always close, especially Jane, the youngest of the five sisters at 27, and Dan, at 22 the baby of the family. They all grew up on the ice in Wisconsin, where children learn to skate as soon as they can walk. Dan started at 4.

Jane herself once competed. Then she became a nurse, like her mother, and had three daughters. The youngest was born a year ago, around the time Jane’s leukemia was diagnosed.

At the time, her youngest brother was ill himself with mononucleosis, which came on the heels of his second-place finish at the 1986 World Sprint Championships. His strength sapped, the second half of last year’s season was ruined.

″I was not healthy and I was having my problems on the ice,″ Jansen said. ″But I didn’t care because I was so concerned about my sister.″

Four hours before her death, their parents called Dan from Jane’s hospital room. She couldn’t hold the phone, so they held it for her.

″She was still alive. She could understand me, but she couldn’t talk back,″ Jansen said. ″But I did get to talk to her, and I’m very happy about that.″

Only the two of them knew what he said. But his most eloquent tribute - an Olympic medal - is yet to come.

″I’m just going to go out there and try to put this behind me,″ Jansen said. ″There’s nothing I can do about (Sunday); we’ll see what happens on Thursday.″

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