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Beckie Scott chokes back tears as she finally receives Olympic gold medal
Updated at 18:13 on June 25, 2004, EST.
VANCOUVER (CP) – The longest race in Olympic history finally ended Friday when Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott received the gold medal for the five-kilometre pursuit race at the 2002 Winter Games.
Scott raised the medal in her right hand and waved to the over 500 people gathered under overcast skies outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. She flashed a broad smile and choked back tears as the crowd sang O Canada while a Mountie hoisted a Maple Leaf up a flag pole.
“It's a fantastic day, a great day,” said Scott, who waited over two years as the two Russians who finished ahead of her were stripped of their medals for failing drug tests.
“I'm in some ways still in disbelief it's actually here. It has been a long journey but one that has cumulated in the ultimate award.”
It's the third time Scott has participated in a medal ceremony but it was the most emotional for the 29-year-old from Vermilion, Alta.,
“It was trying not to cry, I was trying to keep it together,” she said.
“It was such a powerful, emotional moment.”
The International Olympic Committee said Scott is the only athlete to be awarded all three medals in a single event. She's also the only athlete to return two medals from the same race.
“I can't say that part hasn't been fun,” she said.
“My first choice would have been to stand on the podium at the Olympic podium in Salt Lake City and accept the medal there.”
Attending the ceremony was Scott's husband Justin Wadsworth, a former member of the U.S. ski team, plus her parents Jan and Walter.
Charmaine Crooks, a former summer Olympian and Canadian IOC member, presented Scott the medal. Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, was on hand to congratulate her.
The toughest battle for the medal wasn't on the Olympic course at Soldier Hollow but in courtrooms stretching from Switzerland to Russia. Scott's fight helped rewrite Olympic rules so any athlete caught doping at a Games loses all their medals.
During the Olympics Canadian officials also led an offensive which resulted in figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier being upgraded to gold.
Chambers said Canada has proven it will stick up for its athletes.
“In the past people have said Canada is nice guys, we never really push things,” he said.
“In this case Canada decided that we weren't going to stand for unfairness.”
Crooks said Scott blazed a trail for other athletes.
“It shows a lot of athletes that yes there is a mechanism in place, yes we do believe in doping-free sport and yes it is important that this process had to be athlete led and athlete driven,” she said.
While the mood was generally upbeat at a press conference following the presentation, Leopold Nadeau, president of Cross Country Canada, used the opportunity to say amateur sports needs more funding if Canadians want more gold medal performances at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
“It is almost too late,” said Nadeau.
“We need support from all Canadians at all levels to make sure the sport has the resources to achieve pride for Canadians in 2010.”
Scott, Chambers and Crooks all seemed to squirm in their seats during Nadeau's speech.
Scott became the first North American woman to win a cross-country Olympic medal with her third-place finish at Salt Lake.
She finished behind Russians Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina. Both passed their drug tests after that race, but in a later event tested positive for darbepoetin, which boosts the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to muscles.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled last December that Danilova should be stripped of the gold.
Scott was upgraded to silver when it was proven Lazutina had failed a drug test in a World Cup race prior to the Olympics. That made her ineligible to compete at the Games.
The medal was presented in Vancouver to help promote the 2010 Winter Olympics and because the city is the home of Haywood Securities Inc., the national cross-country ski team's corporate sponsor.