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Cathy Turner

A Horse Race On Ice

Turner developed a reputation as a tough competitor over the course of her interesting career, some would say a little too tough. Turner's own perception of her sport sums it up best. "I describe it as a horse race on ice with a lot of passing and position changes," she told Sara Walker of Sports Illustrated for Kids. "There are tight, fast turns and lots of spills." Indeed, speedskating on an Olympic level can see the athlete hitting thirty-five miles per hour on the ice, the kind of speed that usually requires a seatbelt. The sport can get very physical, with skaters jostling for position with cunning and, many times, elbows. Some skaters would argue that part of the sport is getting away with whatever device you can to grab the lead and Turner always embraced that philosophy.

The infamous example of this reputation was in the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994 when, among other things, Turner crossed skates on the course with favorite and champion, Nathalie Lambert. Lambert was knocked out of contention as a result. Later in the games, after settling for the silver behind Turner in the 500 meter sprint, China's Zhang Yanmei stormed off the ice and threw her bouquet on the track, frustrated and upset by what she thought was an illegal shove by Turner during the competition. It was reported in Macleans, that when Zhang was asked in a news conference if Turner was the sport's dirtiest skater she was quick to answer, "Yes. Absolutely." Turner was hurt by this but defended herself by saying she was simply very competitive and that the others were upset because their performances had been so dismal. "It's nothing new. It's an ongoing thing," she told Leigh Montville of Sports Illustrated. "They say I'm too aggressive. They're not used to someone fighting for the turns the way I do."

Later in the competition Turner went up against Zhang one last time in the 1000-meter race. She needed to place second to qualify for the finals, but after what appeared to be a brilliant victory on her part, she was disqualified for cross tracking. Cross tracking is a difficult call for a referee to make since it means one competitor illegally prevented another competitor from passing; a subjective call that is always open for debate. Many believe this was just a way for the Olympic officials to punish Turner for what she was accused of a couple of nights prior. Turner, at age thirty-one, had planned to leave the sport for the last time in the world championships in England. But after her experience at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics she decided it was time to go home. "I have a husband and a life," she told Montville. "I don't want to be around these people. The Olympics were fine, but this day was not fun."

Chronology

1962 Born April 10 in Rochester, New York
1979 Becomes U.S. National Champion in short-track speedskating
1981 Leaves speedskating for lounge singing
1988 Returns to skating competitively
1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, wins the silver medal in the 3000 meter race and the gold in the 500 meter sprint
1992 Graduates from Northern Michigan University with honors, degree in computer systems
1993 Retires from speedskating and joins the Ice Capades.
1993 Fired from the Ice Capades and begins training for 1994 Olympics
1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, wins gold in 500 meter race and bronze in 3000 meter relay
1994 Retires to be with husband and open a fitness center in New York
1998 Comes out of retirement to defend her title in the Olympics but fails to get a medal in Nagano Olympics
1999 Begins to repair her image by promoting causes close to the heart, including young athletes, mental health charities and the American Heart Association

Awards and Accomplishments

1979 U.S. national champion, short-track speedskating
1992 Gold medal in 500 meter sprint, Albertville Winter Olympics
1992 Silver medal in 3000 meter relay, Albertville Winter Olympics
1994 Gold in 500 meter sprint, Lillehammer Winter Olympics
1994 Bronze in 3000 meter relay, Lillehammer Winter Olympics
1999 Named to U.S. Speedskating Gold Council, created to promote the sport and inspire speedskaters to achieve Olympicambitions

As if to prove her talent she went on to race pro hockey player Al Lafrate of the Washington Capitals in a post-Olympics exhibition race. Lafrate was one of the fastest skaters in the league at the time, but Turner beat him easily. But, like many "retiring" athletes, she sensed one last opportunity to compete and returned to her sport to be in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. This time, though, her appearance was without incident and yielded no medals.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsSpeed SkatingCathy Turner Biography - An Outsider Sport, A Horse Race On Ice, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Active Retirement - CONTACT INFORMATION