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    Sunday, November 23, 1997

    Blair sees new era dawning

    By TOM BRENNAN -- Calgary Sun
      The retired queen of speed skating had a rinkside seat to watch the last of her world records fall.
     She took it, as you might say in this sport, in stride.
     "I think in any sport, records are always made to be broken," five-time Olympic gold medallist Bonnie Blair said after Canada's Catriona LeMay Doan shattered the 500-metre mark Blair set on the same track in 1995. "Catriona is really skating well, and I'm definitely glad I was here to see it, that was pretty exciting."
     "She came up and gave me a big hug," reported LeMay Doan. "I really felt that she was pleased for me."
     Blair, of course, raced to all her records without benefit of the revolutionary clap skates, and admits to some ambivalence towards them.
     "I'm still not a real big fan of the skates," said Blair, who retired in 1995 and now coaches her husband. "I always liked the purity of our sport. Now you've added mechanics into it, and I'm not real excited about that.
     "That's not to say I'm not for advancements and improvements, but you wonder if it's almost not like it's two different sports now, like cross country skiing. When you're going four seconds faster than you've ever gone before, is it two different things? I'm not sure."
     Maybe, it was suggested, there should be separate marks, pre-and-post-clap.
     "In a sense," Blair responded. "It's like records from when we skated outside, and then went indoors."
     And yes, Blair does wear the new blades now-- for the times she has to demonstrate something at high speed.
     "I have to work so much harder now, and when you're not in great shape to start with, I need all the help I can get," she laughed.