Born in Cornwall, New York, on March 18, 1964, Bonnie Blair took to the ice at a young age, joining the national speed skating team after high school. In 1984, Blair competed in her first Olympic Games at age 19, finishing eighth in the 500-meter event. She set a world record and won her first Olympic gold medal (in the 500 meters) at the 1988 Winter Olympics. She went on to win gold in both the 500- and 1,000-meter speed skating events at the 1992 Olympics, and repeated this feat at the 1994 Games. Also in 1994, Blair became the first American woman to win five gold medals and the first American to win gold in the same event in three consecutive Games (1988, 1992 and 1994). She is the most decorated woman in Winter Olympic history.
Famed speed skater and six-time Olympic medalist Bonnie Kathleen Blair was born on March 18, 1964, in Cornwall, New York, the youngest of six children. According to ESPN.com, Blair's family was already dedicated to the sport of speed skating before she arrived. Her father, Charlie, had dropped her mother, Eleanor, off at the hospital to give birth to Bonnie while he took their older children to a competition.
Raised in Champaign, Illinois, Blair developed a passion for speed skating at a young age, but it was her father who first believed that she could be a champion. "My dad saw it as a goal before I did, when I was 12 years old. I didn't think competing in Olympics was possible until I was 16," Blair later told Women's Sports and Fitness.
After graduating from high school, Blair joined the national speed skating team. She made a promising show at her first Olympic Games in 1984 (in Sarajevo), at the age of 19, finishing eighth in the 500-meter speed skating event.
Bonnie Blair went on to compete at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada, where roughly 30 members of her family—nicknamed the "Blair Bunch" by the media—were on hand to cheer her on. Blair earned medals in two speed skating events that year: She set a world record and captured her first Olympic gold medal in the 500 meters, and took the bronze in the 1,000 meters.
Blair continued to dominate the sport in the years that followed. She won gold in both the 500- and 1,000-meter speed skating events at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, and repeated this feat at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway—making Blair the first American woman to win five gold medals as well as the first American Olympian to win gold medals in the same event in three consecutive Games. Also in 1994, she was named "Sportswoman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated.
Blair continued to race following her Olympic victories, setting a record in 1994 with a 38.99-second finish in the 500 meters, and finishing with a personal best time of 1:18.05 in the 1,000 meters in 1995.
In 2004, Blair was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. At the time, she was renowned as the most decorated American athlete in Winter Olympic history; Apolo Ohno succeeded Blair as the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian when he finished third in the 1,000 meter men's short track speed skating event at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, taking his seventh career Olympic medal, a bronze. Today, Blair remains the most decorated American woman in Winter Olympic history. She's also still considered one of the top female athletes of all time.
After retiring from competitive speed skating in 1995, Blair became 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.
Blair lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Dave Cruikshank, a former Olympic speed skater. The couple has two children together.
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