Eight years ago as a 15-year-old, speed skater Bonnie Blair was paired with world class skater Leah Poulos Mueller in a race at the 1980 Olympic trials.
Mueller set a track record that day, and after the race she sought out Blair to offer thanks.
"It was actually my second time in Olympic style competition," said Blair, who has been skating since she was 2.
"She came up and congratulated me and said if I hadn't gotten off to such a good start, she wouldn't have gotten going and wouldn't have been able to break the record," Blair said.
"With her saying that to me and with her being an Olympic athlete, that was when I said, 'Maybe I can be as good as her.' "
Blair just missed making the Olympic team that year and finished eighth in the 500 meters at the 1984 Games in Sarajevo. Now, there are no more maybes for Bonnie Blair.
The 5-foot-5, 125-pound Champaign, Ill., resident, who will turn 23 this month, already has clinched World Cup titles in the 500 meters and 1,000 meters this season. And she has beaten powerful world champion Karin Enke-Kania of East Germany several times in the 500 meters.
She is working toward the 1988 Olympics in Calgary with the hope of winning at least two and perhaps three medals.
"Things are in a definite upswing," Blair said. "I don't feel like I've leveled off or that I'm diving down. I just keep going up. I just hope to have another great summer of training and keep things going my way.
"I think right now I have a fairly good shot for two (medals) at 500 and 1,000, and if I can skate a good 1,500 the possibility is there. I definitely have to have an outstanding race for myself in order to do that."
Because she is not as physically imposing as several of her top competitors--Enke-Kania is 5-foot-9, 158 pounds--Blair has relied on technique and a fast start to become a world-class sprinter.
"I do have a good start, and that is a big plus, especially in short races. One of the things that has helped me in the last few years, something you work on gradually day in and day out, is technique. That's what I attribute my success to. I'm more of a technical skater versus a big powerful person," she said.