By Yemi Babalola Lagos, Nigeria
Bonnie Blair is one name synonymous to Olympics. Factually, she is the most decorated woman in Winter Olympics history. This spectacular skater is our amazon for the week.Bonnie Blair was born Bonnie Kathleen Blair into a family of six as the last child on March 18, 1964 in Cornwall, New York. Her family moved to Illinois where she was raised in the Champaign area. She attended Jefferson Middle School. After graduating from Centennial High School in Champaign, she joined the national speed skating team.
Bonnie Blair took to the ice at a young age; she developed interest in skating and loved ice sports as a child. She was raised in a family already dedicated to speed skating before she was born. Her father, Charlie, had to drop her mother, Eleanor, off at the hospital to give birth to Bonnie while he took their older children to a competition.
Bonnie became a professional skater and entered her first competitive tournament at the age of 19, which was the 1984 Olympics that was hosted in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. However, she did not win any medal as she came short of the medal positions, she did not get discouraged but went back home to prepare better for the next Olympics.
At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, the Canadian city, Bonnie had her best start ever in the 500 meters, winning the gold medal in world record time of 39.10 seconds. She also won the bronze in the 1,000 meters.
Bonnie bettered her past Olympic records in France at the next Olympics as she won the gold in both the 500 and 1,000 meters (1:21.90) at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. She did not let this feat hinder her progress, already aged 30 as at the next Olympics held in Lillehammer Norway in 1994. She took advantage of the new development by the International Olympic committee’s new vote to stage the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics in alternating four-year cycles.
Therefore, the next Winter Games was held in February 1994 rather than in February 1996, Bonnie replicated her success in the speed skating 500 and 1000 meters respectively by winning the gold medals in both events. This made Bonnie the first American, and only American (as at then) to have 6 medals at any Winter Olympics, a record that stood until Apolo Ohno surpassed it at the 2010 Winter Olympics when he won a silver and two bronze medals in short track speed skating for eight career medals. This would turn out to be Bonnie’s last Olympics she competed in before retiring.
Apart from the Olympics, which made her well known to the world, she also participated in the International Skating Union’s, World Speed Skating Championships and excelled in it as well. Bonnie participated specifically in the skate sprint event of the championship and won in total three Gold medals, four Silver medals and three Bronze medals, between 1986 and 1995.
Outside skating medals, Bonnie is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2004, she was elected to the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. At the time of her induction, Blair was the most decorated United States Winter Olympian of all time with five gold and one bronze (she is currently third to Apolo Ohno who has two gold, two silver and four bronze if equality of medals irrespective of colour is applied).
Bonnie was awarded a star (number 7) on The Flag for Hope on September 29, 2015 in recognition of her outstanding Speed Skating Career and philanthropic efforts. She also carried the Olympic torch at the Opening Ceremony for the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games alongside fellow skater Dan Jansen.
Bonnie retired from skating in 1995 after that year’s championship but has been a motivational speaker and founded the Bonnie Blair Charitable Fund. She has also been an active supporter of several charities over the years, including the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Bonnie Blair married fellow skater Dave Cruikshank, in 1996. They have a son and daughter together and presently live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bonnie is recognized for her quote; ‘it is sad to know I am done, But looking back, I have a lot of great memories’.
Bonnie has indeed given the world memories that would not be forgotten in the roll call of great women in sport.
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