Sportsman of the Year


  S he stands as a 5'4", 130-pound rebuke to every sucker who said he would play the game for free but won't suit up for a cent less than $68 million; to every slob who complained of unwanted attention, then drove off with the vanity plates spelling out his nickname; and to every Just-Win-Baby boor, be he in the owner's box or the AD's office or the Little League dugout. Just win, baby, is about all she does, but that's not why she does it. Winning isn't everything, or the only thing, or necessarily anything.

It's a pure and rather uncomplicated part of his nature: the desire to help others. It wasn't instilled in him by personal suffering, poverty, sermons or guilt. Both his parents are doctors, so that may have something to do with it. Whatever the source, the ties binding us to our fellow man are seemingly visible to Johann Olav Koss, as real as pain, more lasting than glory, strong as hemp, so that when he passes someone less fortunate than he, Koss reaches out instinctively. Hitch on. Follow me.

Photograph by Bill Frakes (Blair); Manny Millan (Koss)
Text by Steve Rushin (Blair); E.M. Swift (Koss)

Johann Olav Koss has won four gold medals and a silver in two Olympics, holds three world records in speed skating, and has traveled to Eritrea as an Olympic Aid ambassador to provide relief to war victims. After his last Olympic appearance, in Lillehammer in 1994, Koss retired from skating to pursue a medical career. Now 28, Koss took time off from his studies to help raise $3.5 million for Olympic Aid during the 1996 Olympic Games.

Speed skater Bonnie Blair won five gold medals in three Olympics--more than any other American woman. Now retired at age 32, Blair gives motivational speeches, represents several charities, and is a member of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

Sportsmen of the Year:
1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963
1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974
1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996

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