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Catching up with Bonnie Blair

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 16, 2010 07:30 PM

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Bonnie Blair says she skates only "every once in a while" nowadays, the long-track legend's time more often spent on her two children's competitive endeavors rather than her own.

But at age 46, the effervescent Blair still looks -- and sounds, with her friendly Wisconsin lilt -- just like the athlete who secured her place as an Olympic legend with five gold medals and a bronze over three Winter Games (1984 Sarajevo, 1988 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer).

During an appearance at the USA House this afternoon to unveil and autograph her likeness on a chalk mural honoring 19 winter athletes who are in the US Olympic Hall of Fame, she said she has no problem whatsoever with the possibility that short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno will break her mark of six career Winter Olympic medals by a US athlete. Ohno tied the mark in the 1,500-meters Saturday, and he will compete in three more events here.

"I think it's wonderful," said Blair. "[What Ohno is doing] is wonderful for the sport, it's wonderful for speedskating, it's wonderful for the United States, and the more we keep doing as a sport and a country, that's a great thing."

What follows are a few other thoughts from Blair, who is among the 19 US athletes who have or will be honored on the mural, including hockey players Billy Cleary and Jim Craig, figure skaters Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi and Scott Hamilton, and speed skater Dan Jansen.

You were famous, mom? Ohno's approach of her record has put Blair's name in the headlines again, something that is an occasional source of amusement to her family.

My sister back home [in Milwaukee] said, 'They're talking about you every other day on TV!" She's like, 'It's unbelievable. If people didn't know you had the record then, they definitely do now.' "

Of course, it's also a source of tremendous pride. Blair's children with her husband, former Olympic speedskater Dave Cruikshank, arrived in Vancouver last night. She has a son, Grant, 11, and a daughter, Blair, 9. [That's Blair Cruikshank, not Blair Blair.]

"For them to kind of see a bit about what mom and dad did all those years, I'm very excited for them to be here, take the Olympics in and let them see what it's all about," Blair said.

She said her kids are athletes, but mom and dad's sport isn't their thing.

"They found their passion at this point in their life. My son is all about hockey, so we're going to go to some hockey games, and my daughter, she loves gymnastics, competes with it, that's what's in their hearts," Blair said.

"That's the thing as parents: We want them to find their passion, whatever it is. I would have loved for them to speedskate, but they don't want to. That's OK, because they've found what they want to do."

Now that's a coffee table: Blair laughed when told she's supposed to be walking around Vancouver with the medals around her neck. She said she's actually found a cool use for them as the ultimate conversation piece.

"I actually have them in a coffee table that is in the shape of the Olympic rings," she said, dispersing a public relations staffer to find a folder in her duffel bag where had a picture of the table. "A very good friend made it for me. It's got a glass top. It's one of the most unique pieces of furniture I can imagine, and I can share it with anybody that comes to the house. It's very cool. It's something that I'm very proud of."

Holding up the picture, she explained that each ring represents a Winter Games in which either her or her husband competed.

"You can maneuver it to get things out of it . . . you can kind of see there's some etching in there," Blair said. "It says Sarajevo, then Calgary, then Albertville, Lillehamer, then Nagano because my husband was in the Nagano Games.There were five games between us, so we got the five rings.

"My husband was training for Salt Lake and just narrowly missed it. And the guy that made this said he'd already planned to make an end table of just one ring."

Membership has its privileges . . . sometimes: One would think a decorated Olympian would be able to pull a few strings to score a pair of tickets to the US-Canada hockey game.

Apparently, that isn't always the case.

"It doesn't matter how many Olympic medals I have," she said. "I can't get into USA-Canada!"

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