She almost always had the largest cheering section. And speedskater Bonnie Blair gave the throng of family and friends – the “Blair Bunch” – plenty to cheer about. She is the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all-time, with five gold medals and one bronze.
After making her debut in the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympic Games, Blair made herself a household name at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Eating her standard peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich before the race, Blair set a world record and took gold in the 500-meter race, then brought home a bronze medal in the 1,000-meter race, temporarily setting a new Olympic record before two other skaters bested her time.
When it came time for the 1988 Closing Ceremony, Blair was the only U.S. double medal winner and was selected to be the American flag bearer.
The next two Winter Olympics – the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympic Games and the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympic Games two years later as the International Olympic Committee staggered the winter and summer games – Blair swept the gold medals in both the 500- and 1,000-meter races. It was the first time that a woman had successfully defended her Olympic title in the 500, and Blair went on to three-peat. At the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Games, Blair’s 1.38-second margin of victory was the largest in Olympic history in that race.
“Her long strides make her the best technician in the world over the sprint distance, man or woman,” said U.S. Coach Peter Mueller, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the 1,000 meters. “She’s really dynamic; she gets everything out of her stroke. It’s like she was born on ice.”
Blair retired from competitive skating, but remained involved in the sport. She served on U.S. Speedskating’s Board of Directors, was the first person to carry the Olympic Torch on U.S. soil in 2001 prior to the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games and was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.