THE OLYMPICS / WINTER GAMES AT ALBERTVILLE : A Silver-Throated Skater : Diverse Turner Helps U.S. Win Medal in Short-Track Relay

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I'm a sexy, kinky tomboy,

the kind you'd like to meet.

I'm a sexy. kinky tomboy,

the kind who can't be beat."

--From "Sexy, Kinky Tomboy"

Cathy Turner

Let's hear it for Cathy Turner, singer, songwriter, computer programmer, Taekwondo blue belt, cyclist, diver, water- and snow-skier, bodybuilder and now--drum roll, please--a silver medalist at the Winter Olympics.

In the first year short-track speedskating has been a medal sport, Turner, of Rochester, N.Y., joined with U.S. teammates Amy Peterson of Maplewood, Minn., Darcie Dohnal of Wauwatosa, Wis., and Nicole Ziegelmeyer of Imperial, Mo., to finish second Thursday night at the Olympic Ice Hall in the women's 3,000-meter relay.

They finished behind Canada and ahead of the Unified Team and Japan in an event in which the four teams that advanced to the finals tried to skate circles around each other for 27 laps around a traditional figure skating rink.

Short-track speedskating might not yet be as prestigious as the long-track version of the sport, the one in which Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen compete, but it seemed like more fun for the boisterous, flag-waving, horn-blowing spectators who filled the 9,000-seat arena to capacity Thursday night.

And, as Peterson said: "The short-track medals in the Olympics are just as good as the long-track medals in the Olympics."

When she said that, all 12 athletes from the three countries at the post-race news conference applauded.

Turner, 29, thought that her Olympic moment might come much sooner. She was a member of the long-track national team in 1980, but she failed to qualify for the Winter Games at Lake Placid, N.Y., and decided to pursue a singing career.

She traveled throughout the Midwest for a year with a Las Vegas revue, then ventured out on her own as a lounge singer around Rochester under the stage name of Niki Newland. "That sounded more poppy," she said. She had her most success singing jingles for commercials, which is how she was discovered in 1984 by a record producer who asked her to make a demonstration tape.

One of the songs was her own "Sexy, Kinky Tomboy."

Four years later, she got the urge to return to competition after watching the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary, Canada, on television. "I saw people in the Olympics who I used to beat," she said. "That ate at my heart. I realized there was something missing in my life."

She told her mother a few months later that she thought she could make the Olympic team in 1992. "She said, 'Why don't you look into it?' " Turner said. "One week later, I was on a plane to train with the U.S. team."

Now known as "Turner Burner" to her teammates, she is a silver medalist, with a chance to improve on that in Saturday night's individual 500 meters.

She says she went into short-track because it was easier to make the team than in long-track, but now she is hooked.

"I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but the longer distances in long-track are kind of boring," she said. "The sprints are fun to watch."

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