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Winter Olympics: Calgary : BLAIR WITH HER : U.S.'s Leading Skater Hopes She's Worth Her Weight in Gold

February 11, 1988|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

There is going to be plenty of competition for Blair, no matter what distance she races. Kania and Rothenberger are there in the 500. Kania, Rothenberger and two more East Germans, Andrea Ehrig and Angela Stahnke, crowd the field in the 1,000 meters. And in the 1,500, Kania is the only woman in the world with a time faster than 2 minutes, 1:59.3. The personal bests of Ehrig and Blair are more than four seconds slower.

Heiden, however, believes that Blair has as good a chance as anyone to break the East German stranglehold on the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter races.

"I think she is the strongest skater on the U.S. team," he said. "She really feels confident in the 500 meters and the 1,000 meters, and she's even going to try for the 1,500 meters, which surprised me. But I think training for the 1,500 meters will help her in the 1,000 meters a lot. I know the East German women dominate speed skating. Bonnie has her work cut out for her, but I think she can do it.

"I think the U.S. has a good chance at winning gold medals in the 500 and 1,000 meters, both men and women, potentially the 1,500 for women," Heiden said. "I have a feeling Bonnie might be able to do something there. Not because she'll be that much better than the other girls, but the fact that it's a distance that she doesn't hold a lot of expectations about. She might go out there pretty relaxed.

"The men . . . I don't know what's going to happen in the longer distances. It's my opinion that maybe they aren't training hard enough. They do a lot of technique training, but they don't do a lot of strength-type training. Not just weights, but a lot of endurance-type things."

Crowe said he thinks he will let the results stand for themselves. Whether it is responding to questions about training or about winning medals, Crowe doesn't want to promote distractions. There have been enough already, he said.

"Each person is a little different, so we try to view ourselves as a whole, a team," he said. "Hopefully, that kind of attitude sticks. It doesn't seem to have worked out too badly for us. We've had a big change in our attitude. We're not trying to catch up. It's the type of thing where we're saying we like to be the best and we want to maintain it.

"When I started off coaching this team in '85, after what happened in '84, I said, 'Let's get ourselves together. Let's show ourselves we belong.' So I've definitely seen us mature and our confidence grow."

THE OUTLOOK

In the women's events, it's going to be the usual lineup: the East Germans against everybody else. Bonnie Blair of the U.S. has a chance to win the 500 meters and take back her world record from Christa Rothenberger of East Germany, but Karin Kania, also of East Germany is another threat.

The 1,000- and 1,500-meter races have long belonged to Kania, a five-time world sprint champion and a three-time winner of the world's all-around title. Blair is going to compete in both of the events, but she is going to be challenged by Rothenberger in the 1,000 and East German Andrea Ehrig in the 1,500.

The favorites in the women's distance races are Ehrig, teammate Gabi Zange and Dutch skater Yvonne van Gennip.

Nick Thometz's world record in the 500 meters is going to be up for grabs. Akira Kuroiwa of Japan, Ki Tae-Bae of South Korea, Sergei Fokichev of Russia and Canadians Gaetan Boucher and Guy Thibault all have a shot, and so does Thometz's teammate, Dan Jansen.

The 1,000 meters is just as complicated. Boucher, the 1984 gold medalist, is in the field with Thometz, Jansen, Kuroiwa and the strongest Russian skater, Igor Zhelezovsky.

Zhelezovsky, who set a world record in the 1,500 meters in December, is the favorite in that distance over Boucher, 29, the 1984 Olympic champion. Russia's Nikolai Gulialev and Oleg Bojiev are also considered contenders.

The 5,000 and 10,000 favorites are Bozhiev, Leo Visser and Gerard Kemkers of the Netherlands and Norwegian world record-holder Geir Karlstad.

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