Bonnie Blair (born March 18, 1964 at Cornwall, New York) was one of the top female speedskaters of her time, and one of the most decorated female athletes in Olympic history. Blair competed for the United States in four Olympics, and in her Olympic career won five gold medals and one bronze medal.
Blair was born in Cornwall, New York but was raised in Champaign, Illinois. After graduation from Centennial High School in Champaign, she moved to the Milwaukee-area to train with the United States national speed skating team.
Blair appeared at her first Olympic games in Sarajevo in 1984. She failed to medal but showed promise by finishing eighth in the 500 meters at only 19 years of age. At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Blair won the 500 meters and won a bronze in the 1000 meters. In the 500 meters race, Blair set a world record by completing the event in 39.10 seconds. She would win again at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France in both the 500 and 1000 meters (1:21.90).
Blair took advantage of a change of Olympic rules. In 1986, the International Olympic Committee voted to stage the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics in alternating four year cycles. Thus, the next Winter Games would be held in February 1994 rather than in February 1996. The 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway were a coronation of sorts for Blair. She again won gold in the 500 meters (39.25) and 1000 (1:18.74) meters races, in dominating fashion. Blair finished 0.36 seconds ahead of the second best time in the 500 meters, and her 1.38 second margin in the 1000 meters race is the largest margin of victory in the history of the event. In the process she became the first American woman to win five gold medals.
After the 1994 Olympics, Blair continued to compete. In March of 1994, Blair set another world record in the 500 meters, becoming the first female to complete the race in under 39 seconds (38.99). On March 18, 1995, Blair skated in her last race, and went out as a champion. On that day, Blair set the American record in the 1000 meters (1:18.05).
Blair won several prestigious awards, including the 1992 James E. Sullivan Award, the 1992 Oscar Mathisen Award (being the first female winner of this award) and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, along with Johann Olav Koss, in 1994. She also was Female Athlete of the Year as selected by the Associated Press in 1994. Blair also won the World Cup points championship 11 times.
In 2004, she was elected to the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. As of her induction, Blair is the most decorated United States winter Olympian of all time.