Thursday, February 5, 1998
Blair cheers husband, awaits new childNAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Bonnie Blair still likes to hang out at an Olympic speedskating oval.
But, instead of a tight-fitting racing suit, she wore a bulky white coat as she loitered along the backstretch today at Nagano's spectacular M-Wave. She had shoes on her feet, not skates. Blair was merely a spectator, hardly noticed by thosewhizzing by on the track during practice.
"Yeah, I miss it," Blair said. "I haven't tried to hide that at all. I do miss the sport. I miss all the things that go with it. But my life is going in a different direction."
For Blair, a different direction meant retiring from the sport after the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, where she finished off a brilliant career that included five gold medals and a bronze. She married fellow speedskater David Cruikshank and now, at age 33, is about four months pregnant with their first child.
"My center of gravity will be screwed up here in a few months," she said with a chuckle, before turning serious again. "I feel comfortable where I am in my life and when I left the sport. I left on my own terms."
That's not to say Blair broke all ties to speedskating. She is a member of the U.S. Speedskating board and remains heavily involved with the sport through her husband, a member of the Olympic team that is competing in Nagano.
"That's enough to keep some of the spark within me," Blair said. "Sure, I don't get out there with the gun going off and stuff, but it's still a very big part of my life."
Blair travels around the world with her husband, which has helped ease the transition to her post-Olympic life.
"I think if I had just quit and kind of been out of it, I would have missed it more than I have," she said. "Because of him being there, I've been able to go to different competitions around the world."
Blair hopes her husband will be able to snatch some of the spotlight that was on his wife as she became the only woman to capture three straight gold medals in the same event (500 meters) and also won the 1,000 two times in a row before retiring.
"I don't think Dave ever really felt like he's been in a my shadow," Blair said. "But I also think, and I know he feels the same way, that he has a lot more potential than he has been able to show."
She spends countless hours working with Cruikshank, giving him tips in practice and analyzing his form through videotapes. She hopes that will help him better his Olympic record, which includes finishing 22nd in the 500 at the 1992 Albertville Games, followed by a 19th in the same event at Lillehammer.
Cruikshank is accustomed to answering questions about his wife and doesn't seem offended when people call him "Mr. Bonnie Blair." As he puts it, "That comes with the territory."
"No matter how well I skate in these Olympics, or how well I might skate in the next Olympics," Cruikshank said, "to do what she did would be impossible for me. She's one of the best skaters who've ever lived, male or female. I just go out there and try to do my own thing. I know she supports me."
Blair also is preparing for the new challenge in her life -- motherhood.
"I can't be an athlete forever," she said. "The excitement of having kids and then going through things with them that I went through with my parents ... I'm looking forward to it. I better be or I'm in big trouble."