Le May Doan voted Female Athlete of the Year by TSN Magazine on-line poll

By Jeff Heatherington, TSN magazine

After breaking her own 500-metre world record three times last year, TSN.ca users voted long-track speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan as the 2001 Canadian Female Athlete of the Year.

This year, LeMay Doan broke that record again at a World Cup race in Calgary and won the 500-metre event at both the World Championships and Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. LeMay Doan also became the first Canadian athlete to defend a gold medal at any Olympic Games with her victory in the 500-metre in Salt Lake.

Thus, it was no surprise that our users voted LeMay Doan once again the Canadian Female Athlete of the Year, an honour that LeMay Doan says she won't ever get tired of.

"It'll never get old," LeMay Doan told TSN magazine. "That's the stuff that in some ways makes it all worthwhile. When people acknowledge your accomplishments and the work that's gone in, it makes it even more special. Obviously we don't do this for awards and for any other reason then we love it, but it definitely helps."

In a very competitive field of nominees, Le May Doan captured 34 per cent of the votes, edging out Team Canada hockey captain Hayley Wickenheiser (30 per cent). Cross-country skier Beckie Scott (17 per cent), speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes (16 per cent), and basketball star Stacey Dales-Schuman (3 per cent), rounded out the list of nominees.

LeMay Doan also edged out Dallas Mavericks star Steve Nash in voting for this year's Lou Marsh Trophy, presented annually by the Toronto Star newspaper to Canada's outstanding athlete. While LeMay Doan said that she was very proud to receive the Lou Marsh Trophy, which is decided by a panel of sports editors and broadcasters, she was also excited to win the TSN.ca poll for the second year in a row, an honour voted on exclusively by the fans.

"When we're skating we're representing everybody in this country," said LeMay Doan. "To be voted by them is pretty cool."

Last February, LeMay Doan had the weight of a country on her shoulders when she was looked at as one of Canada's best chances for Olympic gold. That pressure escalated even further when fellow speed skating teammate Jeremy Wotherspoon, also a gold medal favourite, saw his podium chances disappear when he tripped at the start of his 500-metre race.

"I think over the last sixth months, I have realized how much pressure I felt and how stressful it was," said LeMay Doan, 32, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. "But you can't let yourself acknowledge that at the time because that will just kill your performance.

"It's nice for me now to think, 'Wow! I'm glad that part is over, because it was really hard.' I think that it's good to go through stuff like that because you learn about yourself."

Now with three Olympic medals, countless world records and World Cup and World Championship titles, you would think it would be hard to stay motivated, but LeMay Doan says that she always finds the drive to compete.

"I've never had a problem getting motivated. People talk about the post-Olympic blues, but I'm always just thinking about what's next. I'm very driven, so I just look at the next thing that I want to accomplish and I go to that."

Next on that list for LeMay Doan includes the World Sprint Championships, the World Championships and the World Single-Distance Championships.

Coming off a bronze medal at a World Cup event in China, LeMay Doan is hoping that she'll be able to recover in time for the World Sprint Championships next month in Calgary after injuring herself in a crash during training in China. Already suffering from a month-long back injury, LeMay Doan hurt her back, neck and shoulder in the fall.

"I would say that I'm having the hardest time in that last few weeks," she said. "Just dealing with my back being sore and not being able to race how I want to. It's the first time I've really had to deal with that. I've always had the desire and my body has followed. It's mentally draining."

While she's talked about this being her last year of competition, LeMay Doan isn't in any rush to decide her future.

"I definitely won't make any decisions until after the season," she said. "Whether it's one year, two years - I don't know at this point. That can't be something that I worry about. People have said to me that when I'm ready I'll know, so hopefully I will know."