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Blair hails Ohno's "awesome" medal haul

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Former speed skating champion Bonnie Blair said she had no hard feelings about sharing the distinction of most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian with the charismatic Apolo Anton Ohno.

Apolo Anton Ohno of the U.S. poses with his silver medal at the medal ceremony for the men's 1500 metres short track speed skating competition during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Short track skater Ohno matched Blair’s career haul of six medals when he claimed silver in the men’s 1,500 meters in Vancouver and he is skating three more events at the Games.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Blair told reporters on Tuesday at the U.S. House where she signed her portrait on the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame chalk-drawn mural which is on display.

“It’s wonderful for the sport of speed skating. It’s wonderful for the United States and the more we keep doing as a sport and as a country that’s a great thing.”

Blair, who won five gold medals and a bronze over three Olympics starting in 1988 in Calgary, said she was a fan of short-track.

“I love short track. I competed in short track, I was a world champion in 1986 but at that point in time it wasn’t in the Olympic Games so I moved into long track. Short track is a blast to skate and it’s a blast to watch.”

Blair said part of the excitement of short track was its unpredictability. Ohno’s U.S. record-tying sixth medal came when two Koreans skating ahead of him crashed near the finish.

“Even though I enjoy that head-to-head competition part, one of the things that drove me to long track was if I won or if I lost I want to know it’s all on my shoulders and it didn’t have anything to do with anybody else,” she said.

“Maybe you look at it like a sport like figure skating that’s judgmental. It’s really kind of in other people’s hands, it’s not always in your own hands. Short track is kind of the same as far as far as that goes.”


Blair, who is on the board of U.S. Speedskating, said she had not seen Ohno since she arrived at the Games. His 1,500 silver gave him two of each color medal for his trophy case.

“When our paths do cross, I’m going to congratulate him. I think it’s awesome,” she said.

The bubbly Blair said Ohno’s accomplishments had drawn attention to her own exploits.

“My sister said ‘they’re talking about you every day,’” Blair said, referring to the TV coverage. “‘If people didn’t know you had the record, then they do now’.”

Blair scrawled ‘Gold x 5’ underneath the pink autograph she put by her portrait on the Wall of Fame.

“Apolo is going to have to keep skating so he can add more gold to his entourage,” she said.

Editing by Ed Osmond