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Andy Gabel

SATURDAY, FEB. 21, 1998

Speedskating

No wonder they call him Grandpa.

Andy Gabel says he hears strange noises coming from his joints when he wakes up in the morning, the wages of spending the last 19 years in the thrill-a-minute world of short-track speedskating.

Three of his teammates aren’t even old enough to vote. Three others still can’t order drinks. They chatter and laugh in the van on road trips. Gabel sleeps.

“Look at that - no gray,” he said, running his fingers through thick brown hair. But it’s not long before the truth is out - one of his teammates pulled out 10 gray strands on the way to practice at the White Ring.

At age 33, Gabel thought he would be spending more of his time in a suit and tie working as an investment banker than in a skin suit and skates trying to win another Olympic medal.

“I’m really old to be doing this,” he said.

But heading into today’s quarterfinals of the 500 meters, Gabel remembers why he delayed his retirement.

Four years ago in Lillehammer, he reached the quarterfinals in the 500 before he was knocked out in a collision. The Chinese skater who initiated the contact was disqualified, but Gabel did not finish and the judges did not advance him.

Gabel, best friends with Dan Jansen since they were 12, still took part in the U.S. men’s first short-track medal, a silver in the relay. But that wasn’t enough.

“I knew when I was still on the ice (after the fall) that I was going to keep skating at least four more years,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to go out like that. I think about that race almost every day.

“To say I’m going to win, that’s a little crazy because nobody is that dominant. I know it sounds cliche, but all you can do is skate your best.”

The race that has haunted him for four years is his last hope. The United States failed to advance to the finals in the 5,000-meter relay when Tom O’Hare fell early in the race.



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