Twenty-seven days after the closing ceremony in Lillehammer, Blair skated in a 500-meter invitational competition in Calgary, the site of her first gold. "It's strange," she says of the race, "it's a split-second time, but I knew as soon as I crossed the finish line, it was a world record." It was a beat before she found the digital time clock, however, and saw the giant numbers in Day-Glo: 38.99. A career summarized in circles—five gold medals evoking five Olympic rings—had come full circle on the Olympic Oval in Calgary.
"Huge," says Thometz of the Bannister-like breakthrough. "And she worked how many years to achieve it?"
Fifty people witnessed what Blair had worked all her life to accomplish. A sequoia fell in the forest and did not make a sound. "Now that I think about it, I wonder," says Blair. "What might have happened if the place had been jam-packed?" But in the end, this is the difference between Da Bulls and Da Blairs: For Blair there is only the game, none of the trappings. In that sense her entire career has prepared her for what many pro athletes and owners are only now learning: that when they disappear from the scene, the world does not cease spinning and just float there, like a knuckleball. The game is over; life carries on.
When Rob Blair has a seizure—he could have one right now on the telephone, he says—he falls to the ground and endures for two minutes until the storm passes. Then as quickly as he can, he continues selling pipe in Dallas, exhibiting his own kind of Bonnie Blair Drive. You ask him if it doesn't ever grow tiresome to talk about his kid sister. On the contrary, he tells you. The frequent questions are calming, like waves lapping at his ankles.
"It's nice," he says. "Because all I hear are nice things. People always ask how she can be so unchanged, such an everyday person. All I can tell them is, it's not a facade. What you see is what you get. And that's a neat feeling. She's a special person. And there's not much more I can say but that I'm real proud of her."
And yet when every other word in sports is hype or tripe, doesn't that say something? Doesn't that say everything?