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Rink celebrates a gold medal moment

January 29, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE and BOB PARASILITIs

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

click images for larger versions

Rink celebrates a gold medal moment

ZULLINGER, Pa. - Dan Jansen has finally realized his father always knew best.

Dad's words of wisdom came after Jansen cried all the way home at age 11 after finishing second in his first-ever speed skating competition.

"He sat me down and said 'Dan, there's a lot more important things in life than just skating around in a circle,'" Jansen said.

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Over the next 30 years, the former Olympic champion has lived and learned, celebrated and agonized while on the continuous circuits of speed skating tracks and ice rinks around the world.

The latest stop in that journey came Wednesday when he helped dedicate the Doris I. Billow Ice Arena in Zullinger.

More than 500 people turned out to see Jansen at the $3 million rink that opened to the public last month.

Two groups of guests who donated $1,000 or more to build the arena and a cadre of local and county officials saw the gold medalist do brief demonstrations around the Olympic-size rink in the morning ceremonies.

The future on ice

The importance of the stop was the chance to promote the future of ice sports in the United States.

"This is something different," said Jansen, before taking to the ice.

"This is a great opportunity for smaller towns. I grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee, which is a bigger city. We had a few indoor rinks, but the biggest one was outdoors. I was lucky to grow up in that area (as a speed skater). You don't know where the next Olympic champion will come from. There's no reason why it can't be here," Jansen said.

But to Jansen, 32, it wasn't a case of opening the rink to find Olympic hopefuls. They are few, but so are the chances to strive for such dreams.

"The secret is, the first thing you need is an opportunity," Jansen said.

"With this rink, there will be the chance to get involved and start teams and the chance to face teams from other areas. It will give everyone the chance to grow. But right now, the most important thing is just to have fun," he said.

Making history

Jansen etched himself into U.S. Winter Olympic memories by first enduring tragedy and then redeeming himself in victory. In his 10-year career, his laps around the ice tracks were testaments to persistence.

In the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France, the world saw Jansen try to compete through the sorrow that came from losing his sister to cancer. Even though he was a medal favorite, emotions overcame Jansen and he fell during his race.

He returned to Lillehammer, Norway, for the 1994 Games only to slip again in the 500-meter event he was favored to win. He rebounded by setting a world record while winning the gold medal in the 1,000. The pictures of Jansen skating his victory lap while carrying his daughter are part of Olympic history.

Jansen returns to the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, next month, but in a new capacity. The four-time Olympian has retired from competition and is working as an unofficial coach of the U.S. speed skating team. He will work as a commentator of the television coverage of the Games.

"It's a different feeling," Jansen said. "I miss this time of year with the buildup of every race being important. Now, I have to be objective."

The rink opened to the public at 12:30 p.m., when more than 200 people lined up to catch a glimpse of Jansen and get his autograph.

A lasting tribute

The Zullinger rink is named after Doris I. Billow, a former Waynesboro-area school teacher who died in 1992 and left $500,000 for an ice rink in the area.

In 1993, a committee headed by Carol L. Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, was organized and fund-raising began.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, secured a $250,000 state grant for the rink. Henicle and her committee raised $560,000 in local contributions and borrowed $1.4 million from local banks. The Frick Co. donated the ice-making equipment.

Ground was broken in June at the site at the intersection of Pa. 16 and Polktown Road two miles west of Waynesboro. The rink opened six months later on schedule and on budget.

Punt, who served as master of ceremonies Wednesday, said the rink will "enhance the quality of life for the Waynesboro area, especially when you add it to the Renfrew Museum and Park, the Northside Park pool and Whitetail Resort."

"Doris would skate today if she were here and she were able. She loved ice skating and the Olympics," said Billow's sister, LaRue Morrison, 71, of Camp Hill, Pa. She and another sister, Jane Monn, 76, of Waynesboro, took part in the celebration.

A third sister, Freda Dansberger, 78, of Tucson, Ariz., could not be there, Morrison said.

She said her three sisters and her late brother, Leon, a former instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, were excellent skaters in their youth.

"I wasn't as good. I liked roller skating better," Morrison said.

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