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Time After Time
Steve Rushin
February 07, 1994
In athletes anonymous, February is the coolest month
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February 07, 1994

Time After Time

In athletes anonymous, February is the coolest month

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Delta gate agent: "No."

Speed skater: "Then how did you know who I was?"

Delta gate agent: "You've been in my living room for the last two weeks."

Speed skater: "Oh."

New York: In the Late Night with David Letterman greenroom after Albertville, actor Ralph Macchio congratulated her. When your fame is as infrequent as a presidential election, such encounters catch you off guard. "The only thing that came into my mind—and it almost came out of my mouth—was, Hey, the Karate Kid!" she recalls. "I was amazed at how tall he was. The Karate Kid, he was really tall."

Then again, she is only 5'4", weighs maybe 130 pounds with those three gold medals around her neck. If she repeats her Albertville performance and wins the 500-and 1,000-meter races in Norway, she will vault past her three countrywomen who have won four gold Olympic medals—swimmer Janet Evans, sprinter Evelyn Ashford and diver Pat McCormick. If she repeats her Albertville performance, she will be the only American woman ever to win five Olympic golds.

"She's strong physically right now, and she's also skating well technically," says her coach, Nick Thometz. "Those combinations make her, I think, the person to beat."

In both events. Again.

In Sarajevo 10 years ago she competed in her first Olympics, finishing eighth in the 500. She was only 19, and it is an appalling reminder of how much time has passed that the host city is today a smoldering ruin. She thinks about this often.

"I've heard that our rink's been bombed out," she says. "The figure skating arena has been bombed out. The site of the opening ceremonies is now being used as a graveyard. The ski slopes and the ski jump area are being used as battlegrounds. When we were there, everyone was so nice. People really went out of their way for you. They had a program where people opened their homes to families of athletes, and my mom and two of my sisters stayed in the home of a family there. And you just wonder: What's happened to them?"

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