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COLUMNISTS

Sat, August 28, 2004

Near-medal miss disappointing for Sydor


ATHENS -- Another potato medal. If you're scoring, that's David Ford, Kyle Shewfelt, Emilie Heymans, Sherraine MacKay and the epee fencing team, the rowing women's coxless four, the baseball team and now Alison Sydor.

Potato medal is what the athletes call fourth-place finishes. Tin medals. Aluminum medals.

"Every athlete knows that fourth is probably the hardest spot to finish at the Olympics,'' said Sydor, the Edmonton-born mountain biker who now lives in North Vancouver. "To have two Canadians in the top four in mountain bike at the Olympics is extraordinary. And never having been out of the top five in any Olympics or world championships in my whole career is not a bad record.

"But it was disappointing at the end to be just off the podium. Some days it's not your day.''

But with Lori-Ann Muenzer having won the first gold in the history of Canadian cycling at the Olympic Games, at the Athens velodrome on Tuesday, and Canada's Marie-Helene Premont far enough in front that a silver was assured in the mountain bike event in 35C heat yesterday, it looked like Sydor was going to complete the Canadian collection with a bronze and a 2-3 finish in the race.

Sydor said the gold by Muenzer didn't hurt the Canadians' mind-set coming into the event.

"I was there watching it,'' she said. "If was a definite inspiration.

"I also noticed she was wearing No. 6 in her event and I was wearing No. 6 in mine. I thought that might bring me good luck.''

For the longest time, Sydor had more than a 30-second advantage on eventual bronze medallist Sabine Spitz. But on Lap 4, in what was otherwise a parade, Spitz blitzed.

Sydor finished at one hour 59 minutes 47 seconds, two minutes 56 seconds behind the leader and 26 seconds back of Spitz.

"I felt the heat,'' said Sydor, a bronze medallist at the 1996 Olympics.

"The heat was a factor. It slowed down my pace a little bit.''

As was the case with her Canadian teammate, the plan was to gun it from the starting gun.

"It was right away,'' Sydor said of going to the front.

"That should have been no surprise. On these courses (dusty, dirt-bowl types), the ability to have a good start usually means the best results.''

Sydor was sitting third, 19 seconds ahead of Spitz, after the third of five six-kilometre laps. At the end of the fourth lap she was down by 16 seconds.

"I knew she was coming,'' she said.

Sydor, who was fifth four years ago in Sydney, doesn't know if she has another Olympics in her. But she knows she'll be around next year to make it a dynamic duo with the new darling of Quebec sports.

"For sure next year,'' she said.


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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