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SPEEDSKATING / U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS : Trailing Blair Is No Disgrace

January 08, 1994|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MILWAUKEE — Following Bonnie Blair has been a habit for Chantal Bailey since she was a year behind Blair in high school in Champaign, Ill.

But Bailey didn't mind trailing Blair at the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating trials Friday, not when her second-place finish in the second staging of the 1,500-meter race won her a berth on the Olympic team.

Bailey, 28, is a former figure skater who took up speedskating six years ago. Her time of 2:09.02 was far off Blair's 2:04.85, but she is impressed by Blair's feats rather than daunted by them.

"I was thinking, 'Wait for me, Bonnie,' " joked Bailey, who barely missed qualifying for the 1992 team in the 1,000-meter race. Bailey could also qualify for the 1,000 at Lillehammer--she was second to Blair in the first two 1,000-meter races last weekend--and she won the first go-round of the 3,000.

"To see that kind of time inspires me," Bailey said. "I look up to her a lot in that race and to what she has accomplished. . . . This is 23 years of dreaming of being an Olympian. I can't believe I actually made it."

Blair, three-time gold medalist, has set track records in each of her seven races at the Pettit National Ice Center. Her time of 39.59 seconds in the 500 was .17 seconds faster than her time last weekend, and her 1,500 time of 2:04.85 was 1.65 seconds faster than her first race.

"My goal was to skate under 2:06," she said. "I skated a solid, consistent race. . . . That's a real good time. I'm really happy with that."

Blair is not a certain she will enter the 1,500 at Lillehammer because it is scheduled between the 500 and the 1,000, her favorite races. "With the way she's been skating, it would be hard to turn down that race now," said her coach, Nick Thometz.

Dan Jansen won the third running of the men's 500 in 36.44 seconds, his ninth consecutive time of 36.7 or faster. He also won the 1,500, in 1:56.49, but his coach, Peter Mueller, said Jansen hasn't decided whether to compete in the 1,500 at Lillehammer. Jansen wants to concentrate on the 1,000 and 500 because Mueller said the latter race is one Jansen can't lose.

"If he skates a solid race, they won't beat him," Mueller said.

Angela Zuckerman of Milwaukee and Michelle Kline of Wauwatosa, Wis., finished third and fourth, respectively, in the women's 1,500 and probably will make the Olympic team. Their qualification is in doubt only because the U.S. team is limited to eight entrants in the women's races.

Nathaniel Mills of Evanston, Ill., finished second in the men's 1,500, ahead of Brian Wanek of Mequon, Wis., and Dave Tamburrino of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Ten U.S. men can compete at Lillehammer.

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