Life Enhancing Lessons from Sports
Aug. 12, 2022

S3 E6 "Little Dream Inside My Head" - Feat. Bonnie Blair

S3 E6 "Little Dream Inside My Head" - Feat. Bonnie Blair

Close Family + 5x Olympic Gold = Speed Skating Legend


This week on SPORTS+LIFE+BALANCE, we welcome Bonnie Blair a speed skater and one of the most decorated Olympians of all time. 

At 16 years old, Bonnie qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials the first time she raced the 500 meters. Join John Moffet as he speaks with Bonnie about her climb to the top! 

 

Transcript

INTRO: 

Welcome to season three, Episode Six here on Sports life balance.

Bonnie Blair: 

My mom was about to have me. But you have to remember dads aren't allowed in the delivery room back in the 60s. Oh, so my dad basically dropped my mom off at the hospital and took the rest of the kids to the ice rink. And then it was announced over the loudspeaker that the Blair's had added a new female to the speed skating world. So that's how, you know my dad. My brothers and sisters knew whether I was a boy or girl. So yeah, like so like, kind of weird, but like was it meant to be that I was supposed to, you know, do what I did in sport. I have no idea but it definitely makes for. It's a true story and makes for a good story.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And that's how it all began for one of the most decorated Olympians of all time, Bonnie Blair, and she's been making news and speed skating rinks for her entire life. Welcome to Sports life balance. I'm John Moffet. And as always, I'm glad you've joined us. As the youngest of six children. Bonnie grew up in a tight knit speedskating family in Champaign, Illinois. She started racing at four years old, and by seven she was named state champion for her age group. As a testament to her raw talent, Bonnie qualified for the US Olympic trials the very first time she raced the 500 meters. And although she didn't make the 1980 Lake Placid team, her winning trajectory had begun. Bonnie went on to make the next gift, this five Olympics, ultimately winning five gold medals and a bronze. And her family and friends affectionately called The Blair bunch. We're there to witness each and every history making Moment. Today, Bonnie carries on that rich legacy as a mom, wife, and coach. So here we go with her story of how through the support of her family, friends and community, Bonnie Blair became part of speedskating royalty. I'm so glad that you're here today. Thanks for joining me.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, sure thing, John, glad to be able to be with you today.

JOHN MOFFET: 

You know, for me, one of the best things about sports life balance, and being the host of sports life balance is that I get to meet and learn about our guests, because I get to do research about your background and all of that stuff. And oh, boy. It's all good. But you and I have only met once. And it was briefly a few years ago, at a meeting that we had at the US Olympic and Paralympic museum before they opened it. Disgusting. was,

Bonnie Blair: 

like, really cool for us to have been, first of all, to have been asked to take part in it, I thought for sure was an honor. And then to be able to, you know, kind of discuss the different things and then to see it to evolve come to fruition is like it's kind of it kind of really turned out to be beyond what I expected.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's spectacular, isn't it? Yeah,

Bonnie Blair: 

I've Yeah, really cool.

JOHN MOFFET: 

I brought my mom there a couple of months ago. So that was a lot of fun.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, it's great to be able to share it with family and be able, you know, just to see history of the Olympics, right? Is just really cool.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's definitely really cool. And, and you actually speaking of your family, you come from a family of skaters and your parents were involved in speed skating even before you were born, right?

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, so um, as it as the story's told, two of my sisters are much older. Got figure skates one year for Christmas. And they went to our local rink and they kept wanting to go faster and faster. And they kept getting in trouble by the rink guards. But the speed skating coach happened to be there and said, Why don't you come try speed skating. So they went home, told my mom that my mom kind of thought they were nuts. And they happen to run into the guy in the grocery store. And they're like, oh, there's Deke blonde. He's the guy that said we should be speedskater. So, you know, my mom talked to them. They investigated, they found speed skates. They realize they don't sell white speed skates. They only come in black. Because figure skates for females back in the day were white. Okay. So anyway, so figured that out. And that's kind of how they got started. And then, you know, years later, my mom was about to have me. But you have to remember dads aren't allowed in the delivery room back in the 60s. So my dad basically dropped my mom off at the hospital and took the rest of the kids to the ice rink. And then it was announced over the loudspeaker that the Blair's had added a new female to the speed skating. So that's how, you know my dad, my brothers and sisters knew whether I was a boy or a girl. So, like, so like, kind of weird, but like was it meant to be that I was supposed to, you know, do what I did in sport, I have no idea, but it definitely makes for. It's a true story and makes for a good story.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, you've been making news and rinks for years since. So it seems appropriate in the grand scheme of things. You're one of six kids, and how many how many of your siblings were skaters.

Bonnie Blair: 

And then five of them skated, me included, and they were all either national or North American champions. Just none of them really stick with it long enough to do what I did. You know, I think they all definitely had great talents. But, you know, they did the normal thing. They went to college, they did what they were, you know, the kind of normal progression and one in a person's life and, and I just kind of was like, Okay, I want to keep doing this. And I just kept on going and tinkering with it. And, you know, maybe too, by the time I came along, or was in those college years, and, and maybe people had said stuff to my parents, like, Oh, she's got some talent, like, and so my dad kind of let me run with it, I guess, so to speak, versus All right, well, now you're done with school, it's time to go or high school, it's time to go to college. So they were maybe a little more lenient, that, you know, in regards to that. So I guess I have to be kind of lucky that, you know, one of the better things would be in the last, you know, maybe they get tired of, you know, battling with the kids. Yeah, just go ahead and go to the I don't know.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, you said something that's interesting to me, he said that they were more wanted to do more normal things and, and striving to be an Olympian or Olympic champion, much less. It, I hesitate to say it's abnormal, but it really kind of is extraordinary. None of it is abnormal,

Bonnie Blair: 

correct? Well, and winning five gold medals in a province, like that is not normal. It's superhuman. Yes. So when people want, you know, now that my daughter's speed skating, you know, people, you know, they want to try to compare that, but, you know, she knows what I did is not normal, you know, that's not, you just can't strap your skates on, and go and expect it all to happen. So, you know, she gets that, you know, I think that doesn't deter tear from her, you know, having dreams and wants, and what could I do in the sport. But she also knows that what I did, you know, and even what her dad did, being in for Olympics, that's, you know, that's not normal, either. So, you know, to realize that and know that, you know, you do you do what you do, because you love it. You get a lot of great things out of it. There's so many life lessons that for sure come from sport, no matter what level you're doing it, you know, competing at so. So, you know, there's a lot of that to take in part. So, um, you know, yeah, Olympics for sure. Allyson Felix that is not normal. accomplished, is not normal. But you know, how cool is that? Right? Like, it's just really cool.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Absolutely. It's really cool. And, and I can tell you from my experience as a swimmer growing up in Southern California, which is a big swimming community. There you also grew up and and competed in a tight community of skaters. Describe what that skating community was like when you were growing up and easing into your aspirations as an Olympian.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, you know, and and it's funny you bring that up because it's so different kind of right now. And one of the things that my husband and I want to try to change and kind of bring it back to what we did have because we had like a you know, our pool of numbers was so much bigger back when we were growing up but but when we had that, you know, back in you know, in my younger years when I was competing what now people know as a short track, we referred to it as you know, Pack style indoor and patch style outdoor, and then there was the Olympic style, so, but you know, so short track, you're competing in a hockey rink, again, Just other athletes on the starting line at the same time through a progression of heat semis and finals elimination race.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right, right. And it's much more contact and it's also the sport probably that in the United States at least that that Oh, no. Apollo Oh, really put on.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, put on the map, right. And so that wasn't an Olympic sport until 88. It was demonstration 92 full fledge metal. So, but that's kind of what I grew up doing. But growing up in Champaign, Illinois, at one point, we had the largest club in the United States, as far as numbers go. And but then, you know, you took the Chicago area, and there were clubs all around, they're probably like, you know, 15, or something like that, you know, now there's like, like, four, maybe, and the number you know, so our numbers have really dwindled, and, and that's very disheartening to myself and my husband, and we're trying to change that. But that's like, that's a different conversation, maybe we'll get to a little bit later. But, you know, for my daughter, not to have those numbers, and the group of skaters and the camaraderie that it comes with. And, you know, a lot of the skaters that I skated with, you know, I'm still very good friends, you know, Dan Jansen is one of my best friends. And, you know, if we don't talk, we're texting or, you know, of course, he comes into Milwaukee, and this is where his family lives. So he wants to see them, he doesn't necessarily want to see me. So we usually see each other out of town, but, but, you know, great friendships became from that, and having a large group to train with, I mean, we were training with probably, almost 30 people every day. So you're always getting that, you know, push from behind the tug from in front. And you know, what really drove the the level of competition up. I think one of the things now maybe we'll go to balance in what you talk about, is, when I was in those frames of doing those kinds of things, keeping the balance there, knowing that this bike ride that I'm on right now, is a recovery ride. So I'm not trying to be in the front, I'm not trying to beat somebody I'm doing as it's intended to do so, you know, trying to keep the balance into what the workouts are geared towards, even though you have this group of people that you can really start to compete against, and but then maybe does that go against you at some point. So at some points, it's good. And some points, you have to be mindful of, where you need to be what you need to do when you need to push when you need to pull back. So that door sort of things. But, you know, we had a good group that was, you know, because it's an individual sport, but yet, you know, someone makes a joke. And you know, you laugh, but yet, you can still push it. And you know, it, even though I'm competing against the person, that's right there next to me, we can still work with each other to try to hopefully make each other to be the best that they can be.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, yeah, definitely. The I was blessed with a similar situation where there were always plenty of people to push me. And you're also right, in that, as an I found in life is that you can just push too hard too much. Day after day, and you have to recover you have to rest. Yeah. And that that's a that's kind of a hard fought lesson that unfortunately, I didn't learn very well as an athlete

Bonnie Blair: 

came on you. Well, you know, right. Yeah. Can you can help teach that. You know, I think some of the other things, too, that we learn that you're like, Oh, I wish I would have known this before or whatever, but then you can pass it on. Right. So, you know, part of, of learning is the failures you go through and how to regroup and re change things to move ahead and learn from, you know, the mistakes that we make, right?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, for sure. At what point in your young career, did you start really thinking that you could possibly go to the Olympics and compete on that level?

Bonnie Blair: 

So in 1980, prior to our Olympic trials, I had been up here in the Milwaukee area, that's where I live for another competition of what I call you know, earlier the pack style racing against each other, but we also did it On the big track the 400 meter track like they do with what now is called long track, or what we call the Olympic style. So, one day it was going to be the PAC style racing. And the next day was Olympic style races. So some of my friends that, you know, I was competing against and with or whatever, they were there, but they were also going to be doing the long trek races the next day. And they were like, Well, why don't you stay and do those? And I'm like, Oh, God, I've never done that before. You know, I don't know, like, I don't. And, and when I was competing at that point in time, our outfits were tight with like a jersey. So a two piece situation. Well, the long trekkers were the one piece with the hood, you know, be more aerodynamic, you're going to use the clock. So someone's like, Oh, I'll get you a racing suit tomorrow, you know, and you should go out and I'm like, Oh, God, and, and all like, Okay, I'll do this. So the next day I do it, you know, signed up for the race. And I was supposed to have a pairing so that, you know, there'd be somebody racing at the same time I was, well, that person didn't show up. So now I'm there all by myself. And then I'm like, Oh, my God, okay. When you get to the back stretch, you're supposed to switch lanes. And, you know, am I going to forget to switch? Like, I mean, it seems like it should be so easy. But, you know, like, yeah, I've never done this before. And, but I also knew that you could compete in the Olympic trials that were the very next weekend, if you skated a sub 48 Second, 500. Okay. So the clock for us is always typically at the end of the straightaway. So I came out of the last turn, and I saw the clock hit, you know, like, 42 At some point, and all my, I just kind of put my head down, and I like went as fast as I could. And I crossed the finish line. And I crossed the finish line in like, 47.80. My God, like, I can skate the Olympic trials next weekend. So um, so anyway, I got to skate, the Olympic trials, the net. So then my parents were like, going back to Milwaukee again, go back to Milwaukee. Again, I still borrowing a racing suit. And I happened to be paired with Rhea, Polish Mueller. And Leah went on to win a silver medal in the 80 games in Lake Placid. So we were paired together. And I always was kind of known for my fast start, and the race finished, and she said, a track record. And I believe I was like, eighth, I mean, there was like, over you know, you know, 3040 people in the competition, and I placed eighth in those Olympic trials. But she came up to me, and she's like, Oh, my gosh, you know, thank you so much. Your fast start, got me down the 100 faster than I normally go. Which then led to me setting a track record. And I'm cut, you know, here's this young kid I was, you know, probably like, I don't know, what was it like 16. And here's this, you know, are ready an Olympian, she winds up going on to win a silver medal, you know, and she's thanking me for setting a track record. So, you know, it's even little things like that, that, that I even want to share with our athletes of today that are in those ranks, too. When you don't know what kind of an impact you can make on these kids that are up and coming. Right. So, you know, watch them, you know, enter our sports so small, interact with them, give them that fuel for their fire, that was like, alright, well, I'm gonna come back and do this again. So you know, that's, that was kind of my, my first taste of it. And then yeah, then I because of the results that I had, I wanted to being on the national training team that summer, and wound up getting invited to training camp, having no idea that like, I was even going to be doing anything like this, because, you know, I mostly did what everybody refers to as short track or what Apollo Yeah, so which I did continue to do through on 1986. So then I did the both of them for a couple of years there.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, you also had a bright, shiny example of what could be with Eric Heiden, who in the 1980 games district Mind the listeners. In the 1980 games, he was a household name. The skin suit became familiar. Right? The gold striped swimsuit and he won swimsuit, I met skin suit. And he won five, five, gold medal all

Bonnie Blair: 

of them all that was able to win. You know, it's like somebody's trying to win. It's like somebody's trying to win the 50 and swimming, and then trying to win, you know, the 800 or the 1600. You know, like Katy Ludacris is not going to win the 50. Right? Not like it's not going to happen. But no matter what she probably tries to do she, but Eric Hayden did that. So he was just really a man before his time. You know, I think to back then, you know, the world was learning more about training and his coach Diane Hollom was, you know, probably ahead of the curve at that time. And yeah, like, I mean, what he did will never be done again. And, you know, that's just, that's priceless, right? It's, but I like I remember, like, where I was sitting in my TV room with my parents watching Eric Heiden. Do that. In Lake Placid. And, you know, did I you know, really think I thought at that time, oh, it would be cool to go to the Olympics. But never thought Oh, could I would five gold medals. It just took me three Olympics to win mine. He won his in a week. A little bit different there. But you know, yeah, like, I didn't. That wasn't my, my thought process. You know, it was okay, I'm skating Olympic style. Okay, you know, maybe I could go to the Olympics. Okay, now that I'm there, maybe I could win a medal. So it was a real gradual up climb for me at nothing too fast, too quick, you know, because I also saw other people over the course of my career, and maybe you did, too. They had so much so early in their life, that then they're burnt out. And then they're not able to really get the most out of their career. And I always say I definitely would if myself to death, because well, what if I go into more games? What if I stay in this a little bit longer? So yeah,

JOHN MOFFET: 

well, you obviously what if your way into the 84 games in Sarajevo, you didn't medal at those games, but it must have been a huge, you know, the trajectory, it must have been really, really good confidence booster for you. Yeah, for

Bonnie Blair: 

sure. I placed eighth in those games. In the 500. That was the only event I was in at that Olympics. If you if they would have had video of that. And you could have seen me and cross the finish line. I was like, it's like, you probably would have thought I won the race. But I like I thought if I could get anywhere near the top 10. That would be awesome. So being eighth to me was like winning. It was like, You know what it was and it was just these little gradual nibs of stuff that just kept my desire to keep wanting to try to do this sport and see how far I could take it.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. And four years is a long time to train for your next big ambition. I mean, I know there's plenty of competitions in between the games, but but it's it's really, really hard work. And it's very daunting to be forecasting when you're a young person where you're going to be able to be in four years. I've heard you say, and I'm paraphrasing this, but I heard you say that one of the things about skating for you is that it brings you great joy.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, I mean, I still love to get out there. I'm 58 years old, thank God, my daughter's still skating, because then it gets me to the rink, right? And I didn't like I just I love to skate. I loved it. But if I don't start skating at the beginning of the season, and kind of go along with it, it's way too hard. So I'm sure you would find that for swimming. If you don't kind of keep at it. It's not really fun to go out there and skate, you know, you know, four or five times a season now if I'm going to do this, I want to do it a little bit more here there and so yeah, so I'm lucky our daughter skates and my husband's you know, the main coach of her and quite a few other athletes and I go and as long as they're not doing anything like full force. It's more like Like if they have laps or some easier or intervals, I can kind of hang on to the back, right. As the years go on, I'm getting worse and worse as I'm getting older, but I still enjoy it. So yeah, I love to skate.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, I and I still love to swim, and I swim in the ocean quite a bit. And yeah, and I understand about the body doesn't work quite as well. But

Bonnie Blair: 

you think that it should? Like, why can't I move my legs faster? Why is my daughter like dropping like, well, I should be able to keep up with her. That's what my mind thinks. But my body's like, No, this isn't working.

JOHN MOFFET: 

I haven't Yes, a little bit of wear and tear to let's let's, let's jump those four years to 1988. Those games were in Calgary. And you had the fortune of winning a gold in the 500 and a bronze in the 1000. Your family and friends were there. How did they react to that gold in the 500?

Bonnie Blair: 

Oh, yeah, like, I mean, nuts. Of course. You know, I go, you want to say we were the Blair bunch as the media dub them. That's kind of where it started. My first games in Sarajevo, it was just my mom and two sisters. So they really weren't quite a bunch there. But there was like 25 of them there in Calgary. And my sister Susie flew for Delta Airlines. And she was like, kind of in their ski club for Delta. But you know, somebody had these like paper jackets that they made. So they're, they call them paper jackets. They were made out of a type of paper. But you could throw them in the wash. And they then they even got softer or whatever. So one of her friends who also came to the Olympics was like, well, we got to get everybody in these paper jackets. So they made like Bonnie Blair paper jackets in. And so I want to say we were kind of one of the first families to get people to start dressing like at the Olympics. And then of course, it grew from there. Albertville there were like, 45 people there. And then in Lillehammer, there were like 60. So, you know, they kept feeding off of each other. But, you know, it was so nice to have them there. And granted, I didn't get to see them a ton because I'm in the village and I'm focused, and I'm doing what I need to do. But I do remember after my gold medal, somehow they say they got my family. And I was able to meet them somewhere. I think it was in between media and going to drug testing. And you know, my dad was he was a man of very few words. And sorry for getting emotional. But, um, you know, my dad didn't never say very much. He was a very quiet person. But when he said things, you knew that he meant it or whatever. And he didn't even say anything, but the smile on his face was the biggest smile I've ever seen from my dad. And he didn't even have to say anything. Um, he also had been going through a bout with lung cancer and had finished his had finished a treatment right prior to coming up to Calgary. So, you know, he wasn't feeling at his best and, you know, I've washed his hair and you know, all that kind of stuff. But the wife to see in my dad's eyes and smile was I mean, it was it was unbelievable at the course yeah, the rest of my family. They're all going nuts. But yeah, that that was a special moment to be able to see them, you know, besides just up in the stands and like, oh, okay, like, all right, like, what am I going to see you guys and I mean, it probably been almost a good two hours or something.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Dan Janssen, your childhood friend was also there at those games. And what I remember is watching those games is that that YouTube had kind of parallel stories favored to win gold. However, his experience was very different than yours. In that in the 500, his favorite event he he crashed, going into First turn on characteristically.

Bonnie Blair: 

Vickery uncharacteristically, yeah, like I mean, you know, to this day I can think of just a handful of times that he ever felt. And then he winds up, you know, he's not so the day of His 500 His sister loses her battle with leukemia. And he decided to still skate. Part of his family was there. They agreed with him, you know? And at that point, what can you do? Right? I mean, there's nothing he could do. So why not? Go for it? Right. Like, why not, you know, make this a potential Cinderella story, like it could have had that magic to it. Right. And, but as it turned out, yeah, he fell and opted to stay and skate the 1000 A few days later. But yeah, you know, that was hard for our whole team. I'm sure you know, with swimming, although it's an individual sport, you're still very much a team, and you're all there together. Men, women, distance sprinters, whatever. And, you know, that was something that for sure was felt by our team, our entire team, not just TJ. Obviously those closer to them. You felt it more, right. But anyway, yeah, it was. It was a difficult time. But to this day, DJ still says his favorite Olympic moment was me winning the 500 Oh, my gosh. And he, he just feels that, you know, somehow that helped his pain, I think feel a little bit lighter.

JOHN MOFFET: 

We'll be right back with Bonnie in a minute. I want to let you know about our partner ROKA, I've been wearing their industry leading wetsuits and goggles and swimsuits for a long time. But ROKA also makes amazing eyeglasses and sunglasses designed for those of us who like to push ourselves physically and want to look good doing it. I know this firsthand, because I own some myself and they're incredibly light, and they won't slip off my face no matter what. If you need prescription glasses, like I do, you can try them on at home ROKA will send you your choice of four frames, and then order your favorite and give ROKA your prescription. It's that simple. So go to roka.com. That's R-O-K-A DOT COM and enter code SLB as in sports life balance. That's just three letters SLB to save 20% on every order. And that's for anything in their website. And now let's get back to the episode with Bonnie Blair.

Bonnie Blair: 

To this day, DJ still says his favorite Olympic moment was me winning the 500 Oh my gosh. And he, he just feels that, you know, somehow that helped his pain, I think feel a little bit lighter. And, but like I said, you know, we're, we're very close, you know, he's like, a little brother to me. You know, we're only a little over a year apart from each other. But, you know, yeah, we, when you travel with somebody almost eight months out of the year for how many years? You know, their likes, they're just you know, I know that, you know, what do you mean? He doesn't like peppers, and I don't like peppers, you know, the foods that you like, and dislike and all that kind of stuff. So, um, you know, yeah, but like if we race ahead, and I don't want to get too far ahead of your, your your questions, but you know the Lillehammer one, then he winds up winning in his last Olympic race in the 1000. That was not always known as his specialty. But a race that he consistently finished on the podium. And to win that in world record time is last the Olympic race ever. That was a storybook ending. And, you know, that had the power of him winning that race as if he would have won all the other races prior to because he had the option he had the talent to have come away with as many Olympic medals as I did, but his one that he did had the impact of the six that I have for sure.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, the entire world and the country was swept up and his delayed Cinderella Cinderella story,

Bonnie Blair: 

correct? For sure. Yeah, yeah, it was like constantly building right? Like he's gotta win. Every like, other countries were pulling for him. You know, like, his, his his competitors. were literally congratulating him, you know, like they were congratulating him in a way that like, you know, Oh, congratulations for you know what you like it was heartfelt. Those congratulations from his competitors were literally heartfelt and that's pretty cool.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Absolutely, I it was pretty cool for me watching it from a very Fordist but but the world really did follow this, you know? It's a little bit of trivia. And I don't I'm assuming that you don't know this, but one of my previous guests on sports life balances a guy named Greg Bonin, and he created Baywatch. And he was filming those games in Albertville in 88. I'm sorry, in Calgary in 88. And he started filming you and Dan Janssen and other skaters in slow motion. And that slow motion that he was filming for his Olympic film. That was his inspiration for the slomo introduction of Baywatch of the lifeguards running down the beach.

Bonnie Blair: 

Oh my god. No had no clue. That's that's that's pretty special.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Isn't that cool? I

Bonnie Blair: 

just love that story. Yeah, awesome. Hit did I didn't know. Ron says you learn something new every day?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, I'll tell Greg. You know, let's let's go quickly to Albertville. In 1992, four years later, and you were you were able to win two golds to number two and number three, which was in your font, the 500. And this 1000. And of course, the Blair bunch was there. But this time

Bonnie Blair: 

we're in paper jackets again. Curious how these 45 of them there.

JOHN MOFFET: 

But unfortunately, your dad, he wasn't able, he wasn't there.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah. And so when I won my first metal at those games, I dedicated that in his memory. Because I really do feel it was his dream that I do all this before it became mine. So when I was about 12, I, my school wasn't too far from where my dad worked. And I think I had missed I had to stay over for, you know, something, I don't know. And I walked over to his work and then was going to get a ride home. And he introduced me to a new co worker of his and he just said, you know, this is my daughter, Bonnie, and she's going to be in the Olympics, and she's going to win an Olympic medal. Oh, wow. And I'm like, Okay, so remember, I told you earlier, my dad's a man of very few words. Yeah. And I'm like, What in the world is he talking about? And I kinda, I was just gonna, like, oh my like, is he just trying to impress this guy? Like, first of all, I didn't skate the Olympic style. I was still just doing like, the short track. And I'm like, what it and so I just kind of went along with it and was like, ah, you know, whatever. I speed skate. And but I remembered that, you know, I remembered him saying though, because like I said, my dad was a man of very few words. And when he said something, you remembered it, it stuck in your mind, you listened, you know, whatever. And now, like, all these years later, you know, I was able to start doing what this guy put this little dream in my head. And you know, I didn't know it was a dream at that point. You know, it was really his to begin with. So you know, it meant it meant a great deal for me for him to be there and ADA and witness what I did and be able to share in the joy of that but he was definitely very missed in the Albertville games but you know, my mom took the bull by the horns and took the Blair bunch on and the matriarch of the lair bunch Eleanor, like lived up to the to the to the task of you know, having everybody be there and be supportive and yeah, like so once again like I win and you get on this, you know, podium in the middle All the way. And my family's all on the back stretch. And all I want to do is just keep, like waving to them. And, you know, I look, you know, in front and I'm like, I see no familiar faces, except, oh, wait, there's Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith. And I'm like, Okay, those were the only like, familiar faces that I could like, see, and I must have said something. And when I won my second metal, somehow they were able to get my mom and my siblings over, right front and center. And I, at least, you know, had that contract. But otherwise it was like, I just want to keep waving to them on the backstretch. Like, hey, I'm here. I wish you guys were here with me.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow, what a great story. Well, you mentioned also that your dad, your dad mentioned when you were little bit, you're going to be an Olympian. And it's kind of, I'm thinking, it's kind of a bit of a metaphor for me as an adult in my life and being able to give back to kids. And every once in a while you say something, and you can see the kid light up. And the that suggestion that you could do great things that suggested that suggestion that, you know, who of you will be the next person to do some great thing? And don't forget, it could be you. I mean, that's a big, that's a valuable lesson that your dad taught you. Yeah, very young,

Bonnie Blair: 

without really even, you know, you know, I kind of went in one ear and out the other right, though, but it did stick. And, and but it was, all those years later that then, you know, as I started doing the Olympic style, as I started, you know, I got to be in those Olympic trials in 1980. You know, maybe I could go to the Olympics. And it kind of came back to, you know, yeah, like, and then I think it was, I think it was in the willie Hummer games, because that's before cell phones. And I got a, a telegram from the gentleman that my dad sent that to. And he sent me a telegram after Lillehammer. And, you know, I'd said something about, you know, I remember your dad telling me that you are going to be in the Olympics and win a gold medal. And here, you wind up winning five and a bronze. Like, you know, What, did your dad know that nobody else did crystal ball.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, let's move on to Lillehammer. Then Lillehammer was actually 1994.

Bonnie Blair: 

So that's when we got the two year break. So they offset the Olympics. It worked out great for us winter Olympians, because then we just had the two year break 90 to 94. But prior to that, the, you know, I always said we were a good warm up for the Summer Games, because, you know, our Olympics would be in February. And it seemed like, as soon as they put the flame out, they were, they were already on to the summer. And, you know, I really do feel that it kind of gave the winter Olympians a little bit longer leg to stand on, and, you know, reap the rewards and being successful. You know, especially at that time when the, the the world of, you know, sponsors were starting to come into play, and which really kind of happened, you know, from the ad for games, when they were in LA, and, and, you know, really are, they were really kind of drum drop drowning off of that, where corporate America really kind of stepped up into the world. And, you know, and then it kind of started not just helping the Olympic movement, but then it would be, you know, sports specific, or it could be individualistic, and you know, that that made a difference and then staggering the Olympics. I think that helped to for sure. Yeah. It helped on the corporate end as well, because then there wasn't always this four years between the Olympics, you know,

JOHN MOFFET: 

well, me as a fan, it helped me as well, because I don't have to wait every four years now.

Bonnie Blair: 

Every team on the couch for two weeks every two years.

JOHN MOFFET: 

That might not be such a good thing. But anyway. No, I think I think it definitely worked out for the better as you said, you want to gold's in the 510,000 Once again, and you mentioned that your mom the matriarch took over the Blair bunch very well. I looked at the the Olympic film The official Olympic film that was produced by but produced, written and directed by Dan span Yes. Great man. And he focused on your mom, just on your mom. Of course, the player bunches around her when you are racing your 500, which is a short race,

Bonnie Blair: 

like, yeah, 30 Yeah,

JOHN MOFFET: 

it's a short race. And she goes completely quiet. Like you can see that, like she is feeling all the stress and nervousness that a human can feel. And, and then when you win the gold, and she realizes it, it's an absolute eruption of celebration.

Bonnie Blair: 

And relief, right? Yeah. I think her shoulders like dropped like, oh, my gosh. And I think maybe, and maybe it was even in the 1000 when they kind of focused on her and, you know, my other siblings or whatever yelling around her, and she was kind of like, hitting them. No, I, you know, stop, like, you know, let her finish her race. You know? It really is fun to watch for sure. Well, it's,

JOHN MOFFET: 

it's, it's a great example of the roles that families have in the lives and careers of young athletes that without

Bonnie Blair: 

and number one, you have no control. As a parent, like, you're you, you sit there like, you know, I know now what my mom's going through with my kids doing their stuff. And you do have no control. But on the flip side, you want to be there for them when loss. They're sick, and they can't even be there. Right. Like, that's how you just and you know, that's how I always felt my family was they were there, no matter what the circumstances was, we're, I knew they'd have fun, no matter what the circumstances were. You know, when I saw some of the pictures and stuff after the fact, I'm like, Okay, were they there to, you know, more to watch me race or just to like, party and have a good time. And, you know, I'm still think the jury's out. But, um, but, you know, yeah, I think you as, as a parent, you want to be able to give them the tools and the opportunities to chase their goals and their dreams and, and you want to be there and supportive in any way that you can, and I definitely feel my parents, you know, and my brothers and sisters, because they were all so much older than I was, they were all there for me and supporting me. And, you know, I think the same thing went for my husband and his parents. And, you know, so that's what we want to do for our kids. And, you know, give and, but yet also to not force them. You know, I would never want my daughter to be in the sport, just because we did it. You know, and it goes for swimming. And sorry to say this to you. But, you know, I was I used to be on the swim team. Breaststroke was my best stroke to choice. Um, but there came a time where I'm like, Okay, I don't I'm not enjoying the swimming anymore. And I don't like getting into the ice cold pools because they weren't heated back in the day. And, but my dad as my dad was a timer for speedskating. He was also a timer for swimming. And so I, you know, I knew that it was something that it was a part of him too, right. So when it was getting close to the to the summer, when it was going to be summer, we're supposed to do swim team, and my dad said something to me, I just dreaded it. I was like, Oh, how am I going to tell him? I don't want to do this anymore. And so when he asked me about swim team, I'm like, you know, Dad, I don't know if I want to do it anymore. And he goes, okay, and that was it. Yeah. And I'm like, oh my god, I dreaded for weeks for this conversation. And, you know, not that I felt like he was going to be like, yelling at me and mad at me, but like, more disappointed, or, you know, I don't know what I really thought it was gonna be but but I was feeling bad for him because of his link to it. All right. And yeah, and he was like, okay, and I'm like, oh my god, that was the easiest thing. And I'm like, and I dreaded this but but I think that that's it you've you've got to let your kids chase their goals, their dreams, be there for them and supporting them, but never force them. You know, I'm glad my dad didn't go, Well, why don't you just try one more season? Or what? You know, he didn't he just okay. And then that was it.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's funny that you say that story because I'm married to a swimmer. So she, she swam at Stanford as well. And both of our kids were on the swim team when they were young. And they both just hated it. They hated it. And I can, I could tell that they both had talent. But they, they just hated it. And we had to, we had to, of course, let them go off and do their own thing. And, you know, our daughter just finished her fourth year and division one volleyball player, you know, so they went on to develop their own, but you have to do that with your kids. You have to let them make mistakes, find their likes and dislikes. And let that be a huge guide, rather than the heavy hand of mom and dad. It just so happened I guess, with your your kids, they both ended up on the ice, the DNA, the DNA, unlike my wife, and I have a DNA didn't work that way. But for you, that

Bonnie Blair: 

wasn't always when my daughter was full fledged into gymnastics until her wrist gave out and and she had to go try something else. And she's like, maybe I should try this speed skating thing. And, you know, that was kind of like 1314 right around in there. So, you know, yeah, for her. It wasn't. I mean, when she first started speed skating, she couldn't do a crossover. So I mean, she would go out there and hockey skates and tinker around and a little bit here and there, but never really had the passion for the ice. But now she's got the passion for it. And, you know, we obviously told him like, don't do this for us. Yeah. And she was like, No, I want to I want to try to give this a go. And she's made three Junior World teams. He's now officially a senior. So now she has to go against the big girls. But she's probably sitting about, you know, 730, right around there nationally, and the 500. So she's getting there, and she's kind of going on that Upswing too.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And your son plays hockey,

Bonnie Blair: 

and he plays hockey. So he plays Division One hockey, he will be at St. Cloud for St. Cloud State that's in Minnesota. For this last season. He got a fifth year out of you know, the whole COVID thing or whatever. So he's got one more year and hoping to go professional with it. He was actually at a Washington Capitals development camp a couple of weeks ago, that went really well. And they said they've really got their eye on him. So we'll see where that goes. And the opportunities that lie ahead for him and yeah, so but you know, I'm not sitting there quiet like my mom out there ringing my cowbell and going nuts.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's funny, it's funny that you say that because I want to ask you about a photograph that I saw of you with a cowbell and you're writing

Bonnie Blair: 

with a cowbell and my mouth wide open.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And it's a precious photo of you. I believe you're, I believe you're cheering for your daughter

Bonnie Blair: 

or my daughter Blair. Yeah, it was at maybe the Olympic trials. Not this time, but the last time

JOHN MOFFET: 

and, you know, there's there's a connection there. I mean, you didn't sit quietly, but yeah, you've got the continuation of, you know, your mom cheering you on and your dad cheering you on. And now you and you are starting another Blair bunch, in essence, but it's just a there was a beautiful photo that illustrating I

Bonnie Blair: 

call it the V Bizzle bunch, even though her name's Blair cruciate, we felt like we got to get away from the Blair bunch and do something else. So whatever Nick's Nick nicknames is B bezels. So it's the B bezel bunch. And we all got sweatshirts. Now gotta look like

JOHN MOFFET: 

and you you help coach your daughter. And I'm assuming that you also at one point helped coach your son. I'm curious. How how do you remain balanced as a parent and as a coach?

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, and I think part of that as that kind of goes with the kids being willing. Right? But, you know, ever since the kids were little we've always kind of helped them, you know, obviously, but you know, I'm not teaching or gymnastics by any means, but you My husband played soccer in high school. So he helped her when she was doing her soccer a little bit. Grant played hockey growing up, which is what he saw all his, my nephews, his cousins do. But my husband, when he retired from speed skating, he went into trying to get hockey players to be better skaters, and learning how to not just skate on your hockey skates, but put everything all together. So he's learned, you know, a lot of not necessarily a play in hockey, but moves in hockey and how to maneuver on your skates and has really taken a lot of time to do that, but, but also the training off the ice, and how to get strong off the ice. I think a lot of hockey players, and you hear this over and over get guy just got to get in the gym, and, you know, pump weights and Kumbaya. And that's what they think off ice training is. But it really is a lot of things. It's, it's training those, you know, those muscles. And being in that crouch skating position, you know, having a lot of good balance work for your edges, doing cardio, so riding the bike doing some running, you know, those kinds of there, you know, and you can, you can do that kind of all well rounded. And so Dave really works with, with Grant, you know, a lot of times here at the house, we've got, you know, usually two other hockey guys live in here that are being trained by Dave as well. And, you know, we go out on group rides, and it's the speed skaters and the hockey players all riding together, we might, you know, sometimes have 12 in our group, but, you know, it's training. And, you know, I think the kids also realize that what mom and dad did was, you know, pretty decent. So he's like, Okay, I think it's okay to listen to them versus, you know, to listening to somebody that maybe doesn't have the credibility behind their name. However, I'm the first to admit it, I'm not a great coach. I'm more, you know, and I might be good for more of the talking aspects and thinking aspects or whatever. But, you know, like, I'm like, Okay, why can't you just go do it? Like, you know, where my husband is? Technically thinking all the different things and can articulate that and I'm like, Well, why don't you just go? Why can't you go skate faster? Why? Why can't like so I'm, I'm not as good as that type of stuff. So we're probably good for the ying and the yang, of, you know, helping to coach the kids in a way. But he's more the coach. I'm kind of the I'm the assistant and I'm a good video ographers too.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh, I have a question for you. Regarding your, your coaching. I read that your daughter wasn't able to compete in the Olympic trials earlier this year, because she came down with COVID. Obviously, you know, when you're young person in, you know, the lightning in a bottle of it every four years and the Olympic team, it's, it's, it's pretty crushing blow. But the pain that you feel as a parent, also is, I mean, it's, it's a different kind of pain, but to watch your kids go through things like that.

Bonnie Blair: 

Well, and to know how hard they work. Yeah. And, you know, I she was a major long shot for making the Olympic team. But that was her Olympics, you know, the Olympic trials was her big meat of the year. And so, yeah, and, you know, the blow would have helped if she would have felt bad, but she had no symptoms. And you know, living here in the house with Dave and I, and Dave and I are negative. And of course, he's coaching other athletes and you know, like an assistant coach, so we have our credentials, so we had to get tested every single day. And we keep testing negative negative, negative, and here's she's negative, or here she's positive. Feels not bad. It not not a sniffle. Not a fever. Not you know, so like, if she would have felt bad it probably would have made the blow easier, right? Like, at least feel crappy. But she didn't so, you know, but she she handled it like a trooper. And you know, at the end of the day, there wasn't anything you could do about it. So at like a wife gives us different things, you figure out how to deal with it, and you pick up and you move on. And so, um, you know that that was it. But yeah, like, and especially being an athlete, I know how hard she worked and what she put into it. Or, you know, that would happen to me, my mom would have no clue what I was doing out, you know, training. She just knew I was gone for a few hours here and a few hours there. But I know what she did I know the work that she put in, I felt it. And so yeah, it was, it was crushing. And, you know, like I said, I like it really would have helped if she would have fell.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. I get that. Well, the one of the great things that Sports teaches kids is resilience, toughness, perseverance. And, and those lessons. That's, of course, one of the topics that I like to talk about those lessons last throughout life long after sports are over.

Bonnie Blair: 

Oh, for sure. And, you know, we're always going to have setbacks one way or another, and it's how you deal with them. You know, there's, I guess, I always feel the sun's gonna come up tomorrow. And, you know, that's kind of how what we've shared with our kids, like, something happens, you move on, like, it's beyond our control. So let's move on look for tomorrow. She had more competitions throughout the season, we're gonna, you know, those are going to be our next points that we're going to try to be hitting and try to get faster times. And, you know, and then that's what she did.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, and, and, yes, in sports. Sometimes things happen. There's no necessarily a reason behind it. Some, sometimes you just get your butt kicked or something happens. And, yeah, and and I think, you know, it struck me that searching for those silver linings is a great coping mechanism, where you're trying to find okay, what is the good that I can find out? Find from?

Bonnie Blair: 

Maybe you won't find it out for a while, right. You know, it could be a little ways down the road before you figure out what that potential silver lining could be? And, you know, yeah, then it probably softens the blow off the time, it's hard.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, just a wrap to wrap it up here. I have one final question for you. And it's kind of you know, it's kind of a bigger scope. Question. How was being an Olympian? How did it influence your life as a wife and a mom and a coach?

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, you know, I don't necessarily know whether Olympian is the right word, or just through sports in general, and the life lessons that I learned through that and, you know, setting goals, resetting them, as we talk about having setbacks, and trying to maneuver the ways to overcome those and move forward. You know, I think those are the, but it helps in all walks of life, right? No matter what we do in our life, there's always going to be something and but I think always, you know, looking forward to the next thing, and, you know, what is that next thing and, you know, obviously, my sporting days are gone. But, you know, now those next thing are living through it through my kids. And how fun is that? So, you know, I think, you know, the other thing my, my, I learned from my brother, who battled a brain tumor for a good 20 plus years. And, you know, he was never one to say, like, Why me? He? And he was somebody whose glass was always way more half full than half empty. And he said to me one time, you know, we must have been talking about what you can do or can't do or something and, and how he wasn't able to dry because of seizures, I'm sure that's probably one of the things and he's like, Well, yeah, but he goes, You know, when I got this brain tumor, or before I got this brain tumor, let's say there were 10,000 things that I could do, and he goes in now there's 9000 things that I can do. And so you know, that glass was always way more half full than half empty and to try to find the positive in positives and things instead of the negatives. And and look for those positives and, and try to shine a light on something when it's dim. But I really learned a lot through Yeah, my my older brothers and sisters some life lessons I learned through my parents and sport. And like I said, you just hope that you carry them on, you know, transfer them over to the next generation and hopefully it keeps moving forward. Your legacy

JOHN MOFFET: 

is bigger than just the the gold and bronze medal.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, for sure. Like, if you were to ask me my best race in Lillehammer. My best race actually came in the 1500. And I skated that race faster than I ever had, by almost a half a second. So it was a personal best for me. And like, a personal best buy half a second. And, you know, like, how far a half a second is? Its weights. Right. And so, and I just missed a bronze medal by two one hundredths of a second. So, you know, yes, I was fourth. And I won two gold medals there. But that fourth place finish was really, when I look at at the the races in the 500 and 1000. Race per race. That fourth place finish was my best race at in Lillehammer. Yes, I came away with two gold medals. But that fourth was really, it was an American record. It was the fastest I've ever gone. You know. So those are, that's kind of what I mean. Like, to me, that was first even though you know, others look at that as well. You lost? Well, yeah, I did. But like, I was on top of the like, I just rocked that race. You know, I was just as proud of that race, as I was as the other two.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, Bonnie, thank you for joining me today.

Bonnie Blair: 

Okay, but I got a

JOHN MOFFET: 

question on you. Okay.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yes. So I believe, you know, well, probably, at least I have gotten to know over the course of a few years, but that you competed with like Rowdy Gaines. Right, Steve, one quick course. And good buddies of mine that. And of course, Steve was also a breaststroker. So probably, what are your main competitors? If I'm not mistaken,

JOHN MOFFET: 

I broke his world record at the Olympic trials. Yes.

Bonnie Blair: 

But anyway, like, our Olympic world is pretty small. And you know, it's it's smaller when you take just winter, but I definitely feel having been a gold medalist and, and getting to be intertwined through some of the summer sports, and the summer Olympians has been a lot of fun too. And, and it makes it more fun for watching the games and cheering the next generations on. And, you know, as they say, kind of in the Olympic movement. Once you're an Olympian, you're always an Olympian. So I feel our connection, and, you know, appreciate you doing what you're doing to share with those of your listeners, you know, some of the life lessons that we learn through through sport, but go beyond sport, for sure.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, thank you. That's a very, that's a great compliment. I really, really appreciate that, as I said at the beginning of our conversation, that perhaps the best thing about doing sports life balance is meeting and getting to know the athletes better, no matter what type of athletes that they were a lot of people on the show are not necessarily even Olympians or Paralympians. And, to me, it's, it's, it's, it's the community, it's that that bigger community, we it's something that's very important to me, and and so for that I really appreciate you spending time and me getting to know you a little bit better and our listeners getting to know you a little better, as well and good luck to both of your kids as they strive on their careers. And thank you again for spending your time with me.

Bonnie Blair: 

Yeah, for sure thing and yep, you'll hear me I'll have my cow bell ringing, whether it's hockey or speed

JOHN MOFFET: 

I love it. Bonnie has modeled her life as an skating. athlete, mother and coach with an axiom of her own making. She says winning doesn't always mean being first. Winning means doing better than you've done before. I'm John Moffet. And thank you for joining Bonnie and me for this episode of sports life balance. If you've enjoyed your time here, please give us your five star review and do me a favor and tell a friend or two. Bye for now.

INTRO: 

This was sports life balance with John Moffet.

Bonnie Blair Profile Photo

Bonnie Blair

Speed Skating Legend

As one of the most decorated olympians of all time, Bonnie's journey started when she qualified for the olympics when she was just 16 years old.