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."
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.