Butte, Mont.: In a checkout line at the Safeway here, she saw herself on the cover of Life. You can set your sundial by it. Every fourth February the Gregorian calendar gains a day, and every fourth February this woman becomes fleetingly world famous. ¶ But this was not February. This was January 1988, and so no members of the grocery cart-pushing public recognized the cover girl in their midst. Until, that is, her sister Mary peeled a magazine from the rack and began buttonholing shoppers. "That's my sister," said proud Mary. "Do you know who this is?"
Do you know who this is?
Do you know, do you know, do you know? (Nike doesn't.) Do you know me? ("No," replies American Express.)
If she wins two more gold medals at the Winter Games in Lillehammer, this speed skater will become the Most Gilded American Woman in Olympic History, Either Solstice. And yet for three years and 11 months out of each quadrennium, she and her sport may as well be in a witness-protection program. This is one of the reasons that the Winter Olympics were moved up two years: To give their etiolated athletes more exposure. And yet....
Out of every 100 people I meet," our hero was saying in December, "90 don't even realize that the next Olympics are in February. They have no clue. They're like, Soooo, you're going to be in Atlanta in '96? Uh, yeah. They'll have a good ice skating rink. Skiing will be real good in Atlanta."
Super G on Stone Mountain? Bobsled in Buckhead? People just don't get it yet-that this speed skater can make history in Lillehammer this month.
Not to worry. They will get it, they always do. After winning a gold and a bronze medal-and setting a still-upright world record in the 500 meters—at Calgary in February '88, she flew to New York City and was startled to be recognized, immediately, by a cop on the street.
After winning two golds in Albertville in '92, she again flew to New York to secure those inalienable rights of American celebrity: Life, Letterman and the pursuit of happiness.
Delta gate agent: "We're so excited to have you on board."
Speed skater (whose sister Suzy is a Delta flight attendant): "Did my sister tell you I was flying?"