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gold medal Olympic Insights

Bonnie Blair


Bonnie Blair has parlayed her speed skating success into a busy career as a motivational speaker and a commentator for ABC Sports. The most gilded woman in US Olympic annals, Blair brought home five gold medals. From now on, she'll be a spectator at the games.

  • Name: Bonnie Blair
  • Age: 32
  • Home: West Allis, Wisconsin
  • Sport: Speed skating

Olympic notebook: Blair won five gold medals in the 1988, 1992, and 1994 Winter Olympics.

What have been the main medical issues in your career?
Major sprained ankles. Everybody thinks in skating you've got to have the strongest ankles. I probably have some of the loosest or weakest ankles there are. I can be a clod just walking. I can roll my ankle over at the drop of a hat—totally flat ground and boom, I roll my ankle right over.

So what are some of your rehab tips?
I think one of the most important parts of rehab is to make sure you're doing what you're supposed to. People have to realize that they're not going to get cured just at the doctor's office and the therapy office. A lot is going to come from you doing what you're told at home and trying to stay as regimented to that as possible.

How do you keep fit during recovery?
At least in skating with my ankle, I'd be able to tape it. Sometimes the running part would be very difficult. But basically whatever I would do running, I can do on a bicycle.

So the point is to take the pressure off your ankle?
Correct. So you can always find ways to improvise. I think science has come so far and research has come so far, you can be injured and still not lose too much. Therapists and doctors know so much now, you can always find ways to get around things.

Do you have any injury prevention tips for skaters?
In skating we're pretty lucky because it is a relatively injury-free sport. It's very smooth and fluid on your muscles. There's not a lot of pounding and that kind of thing.

I think probably the biggest problems we see as a sport come from not doing the proper warm-up and cool-down that needs to be done before and after workouts. The muscle pulls and muscle strains come from what I think of as being lazy.

What specific benefits do you experience from exercise?
I wind up sleeping better. I think you feel more refreshed. You have more energy. Obviously, when you're training twice a day, that energy level gets kind of zapped. I would notice that at the end of the season. Then when I took time off, there would come a time when I wouldn't be sleeping as well. That was my time to say, "Okay, it's time to start training again." It was kind of like my body knew its rest was done and it was time to get back at it again.

Jacqueline White is a contributing editor of The Physician and Sportsmedicine.