Skater Dedicates Race To Sister, But Falls
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) _ For the last year, Dan Jansen dedicated his life to his speed skating, and his speed skating to his dying sister.
On Sunday, Jansen’s day as an Olympic favorite, his older sister, Jane Beres, died of leukemia in Wisconsin. But Jansen stayed in Canada instead of going home, determined to turn tragedy into victory.
But heartache wasn’t through with Dan Jansen.
Skating against Yasushi Kuroiwa of Japan in the 500-meter sprint, in which he was the world champion, Jansen lost his edge going into the first turn. He fell on his left side, slid across the ice, knocked down Kuroiwa and slammed into the wall.
He bounced up, threw his arms into the air in a gesture of disbelief, slapped his thighs in disgust and buried his head in his hands in dismay.
Jane was gone, and so was the race that he had wanted so badly.
″She wants me to go out and do my best,″ Jansen said last week. ″I want to go out and do well for her because she’s fought so hard. I want to fight, too.″
″It was up to Dan,″ Jansen’s father, Harry, who did go home, said of his son’s decision to compete. ″He was told he wasn’t doing it for us. If he was skating, he was doing it for Jane and for himself.″
Although Jansen was eliminated from his best event, he still has a chance for a medal in the 1,000-meter race Thursday.
The Jansens are a large but close-knit family, their father said. Jane, the youngest of the five sisters at 27, and Dan, at 22 the baby of the family, were especially close, he said. 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 once competed herself. 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.″
His illness also eliminated him as a bone marrow donor for Jane; another sister, Joanne, was chosen.
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.‴
Jane died about eight hours before the race. Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday, two days after Dan’s last race in the Olympics.
Four hours before her death, Jane received a phone call from Dan. She couldn’t hold the phone, so her parents did it for her. She couldn’t speak, but she could hear and understand, their father said.
Dan asked his brother Mike to give her a kiss for him.
Only the two of them know what he said. Perhaps he told her he was going to win, and he was doing it for her.
Now his teammates are doing it for him. The team dedicated its Olympic effort to Dan at a meeting Sunday morning, and coach Mike Crowe said that seemed to lift Dan’s spirits.
He was given a room by himself in the athletes’ village, and he called home during the day. Then he went to the Olympic Oval to skate for Jane.
″Nobody put pressure on him to skate or not,″ Harry Jansen said. ″But he’s worked hard for this, and he knows Jane would want him to skate.
″She was very proud of him. She wanted him to go for it.″