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1992 Albertville Olympics: Kerrin Lee-Gartner

The Story

A generation after skiing sweetheart Nancy Greene captured Canadians' hearts with her fearless bravado, Kerrin Lee-Gartner is poised to follow in her ski tracks. In this CBC profile, Lee-Gartner prepares for the 1992 Albertville Olympics with her husband and former coach Max Gartner. After a disappointing performance at the 1988 Calgary Games, Lee-Gartner maintains her perspective for the upcoming Olympics. She is cautious but quietly hopeful and will go into the Games seeded 13th in the world. Once in Albertville, Lee-Gartner quickly sheds her underdog status. With great mastery, she tears down the long and difficult downhill track. Her time: one minute 52.55 seconds -- that's 0.12 seconds faster than the leader Katja Seizinger of Germany. A jubilant Lee-Gartner claims Canada's first downhill gold medal.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Sports
Broadcast Date: Feb. 15, 1992
Guests: Max Gartner, Kerrin Lee-Gartner
Narrator: Ernie Afaganis
Duration: 2:46

Did You know?

• Kerrin Lee was born in Trail, B.C. on Sept. 21, 1966. Gartner was raised in Rossland, B.C., and lived just two doors down from the home of the legendary skier Nancy Greene.

• At age 16, the promising young skier was selected for the Canadian Women's Ski Team. After suffering repeated injuries, Lee-Gartner struggled to recover. At the Calgary Olympics she finished 15th in the downhill, 17th in the giant slalom, 23rd in the super-G and eighth in the combined event.

• In this clip, Lee-Gartner is seen panning for gold in Calgary. The vendor working the booth told Lee-Gartner that if she brought the piece of gold she panned with her to the Olympics, she would surely win a gold medal. Lee-Gartner brought the nugget of gold with her to Albertville as one of her good luck charms.

• The downhill course in Albertville named the Roc de Fer (Iron Rock) was an especially difficult run. During practices and competition, skiers continually wiped out. One particularly rough part of the slope had been nicknamed "Noodles" because it tied its victims up in knots like spaghetti.

• In 1992, the Swiss newspaper Blick printed a sensational interview with Lee-Gartner in which she allegedly said on the morning of her Olympic race, "my husband, Max opened my eyes with a warm-up under the covers. We made good vibrations for the race." Lee-Gartner denied that she gave an interview to Blick and told Maclean's, "Whatever we did, it worked. I'm not going to say it's what is in this paper."

• Following her Olympic win, Lee-Gartner began to feel the pressures of expectation. In 1994, she was seeded third in the downhill circuit but failed to put together spectacular runs. "For the first time since the Olympics, I began to feel the weight of that gold medal. I was thinking that I had to get better, which is crazy because I had already shown that my best was good enough," she told Maclean's in February 1994.

• Later in the 1994 season, Lee-Gartner was forced to reconsider her commitment to her dangerous sport following the death of Austrian skier Ulrike Maier. Maier, 26, crashed and broke her neck in a race being held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Lee-Gartner later told Maclean's, "I was already married, and my new goals were to have children and raise a family. I didn't want anything to come in the way of that."

• Lee-Gartner retired after the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics where she placed eighth in the super-G event. Most recently, she provided commentary for CBC Television coverage of the Salt Lake City Olympics. As of 2004, Max Gartner was employed with the Canadian National Ski Team as the Chief Athletics Officer.

• At the Calgary Olympics in 1988, Canada did not win any gold medals but collected two silvers from figure skaters Brian Orser and Elizabeth Manley. Alpine skier Karen Percy won two bronze and ice dancers Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall also claimed bronze.

• In Albertville in 1992, Canada increased its medal count. In addition to Lee-Gartner's gold, the ladies' short-track speed-skating team (Angela Cutrone, Sylvie Daigle, Nathalie Lambert, Annie Perrault) also won gold. The men's hockey team won silver as did short-track speed skater Fréderic Blackburn. The men's short-track relay team of Blackburn, Michel Daignault, Mark Lackie, Sylvain Gagnon and Laurent Daignault also won silver. Biathlete Myriam Bédard and figure skaters Lloyd Eisler and Isabelle Brasseur won bronze medals.



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