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On This Date in Sports February 18, 1994: The Best for Last

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In his final Olympic event, Dan Jansen of the United States wins a Gold Medal in the 1000-meter speed skating event at Lillehammer, setting a World Record at 1:12.43. Jansen was one of the top speed skaters in the world, who was known for his fall after learning about the death of his sister at the 1988 Calgary Games. After his victory, Jansen skated with his daughter Jane, named after his sister. 

Dan Jansen was born on June 17, 1965, in West Allis, Wisconsin. Jansen, along with Bonnie Blair were the twin American powers from Wisconsin. While Blair had a long-decorated career at the Olympics, Jansen had yet to earn an Olympic medal as he went into his final race. Outside of the Olympics, Jansen had a successful career winning the World Sprint Championships twice, while setting seven world speed skating records.  


Dan Jansen’s Olympic career began at the Sarajevo in 1984, when he narrowly missed making the podium as a 19-year-old. Four years later, in Calgary, he came in a favorite but had a heavy heart as he raced as his sister Jane succumbed after a long battle with leukemia at the age of 27. In each of his two events, he fell and came away with no medals. Four years later, Jansen had good showings at the games in Albertville but finished fourth in both the 500m and 1000m. 


Dan Jansen’s Olympic career would have likely ended in 1992, but the next game was just two years away as it began a new era of staggering the winter and summer Olympics every two years, instead of holding both in the same year ever leap year. Dan Jansen struggled in his first outing in Lillehammer, finishing eighth in the 500m, leaving the 1000m race as his final chance to take home an Olympic medal. 

Dan Jansen saved his best for last as he set a new world record, skating 1000 meters around the track in 1:12.43 to capture a Gold Medal, as Igor Zhelezovski of Belarus grabbed the Silver and Sergey Klevchenya won the Bronze Medal. After the Gold Medal ceremony, Dan Jansen took a victory lap carrying his daughter Jane, who as named after his sister. Jansen would later carry the American flag at the closing ceremonies.