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1994

Dan Jansen skates world-record 500 meters

On this day in 1994, the American speed skater Dan Jansen sets a new world record of 35.76 at the World Sprint Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Born in 1965 in Wisconsin, Jansen had been the youngest skater to compete at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, where he came in fourth place in the 500 meter event. Favored to win in Calgary in 1988, Jansen was devastated by the death of his sister Jane from leukemia on the day he was scheduled to race in the 500 meter final. He raced that night in hopes of winning in her honor, but fell 100 meters into the race. Four days later, he fell again during the 1000 meter event, and left Calgary without a medal. In Albertville, France, in 1992, Jansen came up short again, finishing fourth in the 500 meters and 26th in the 1000.

In December 1992, Jansen became the first man ever to skate 500 meters in less than 36 seconds, when he set a new world record mark of 35.92 seconds in Hamar, Norway. The January 30, 1993 finish marked the sixth time that Jansen had either tied or broke the world record in the 500 meters. He had come to dominate that event and the 1,000 meters in international competition, but an Olympic medal still eluded him.

The next Winter Olympics–Jansen’s fourth–were held in 1994, in Lillehammer, Norway. By that time, he had won an overall total of seven World Cup titles and set seven world records. After he slipped in the 500 meter skate, it looked like Jansen’s hopes for Olympic glory might be shattered. When he took to the ice for the 1,000 meter event four days later, however, Jansen turned things around, skating to a world record finish of 1:12.43 to finally win Olympic gold. He retired from competition after the Lillehammer games.

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