Dorothy Hamill, Figure Skating
Shaun White, Snowboarding
Bonnie Blair, Speed Skating
When Bonnie was born, her father was at a rink in Cornwall, New York, watching one of his five other children competing. It had to be announced over the loudspeaker that “another skater” had joined the Blair brood. She was on skates at age two, and by 23, she had worked her way up to the Olympic level. At 5 feet 4 inches and 130 pounds, Blair was a powerhouse. She raked in six medals, the most ever won by a winter Olympian, in the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Games. Five of the six, mind you, are gold.
Kristi Yamaguchi, Figure Skating
Kristi Yamaguchi’s success as a skater began in pairs skating with her partner, Rudy Galindo. But, by 1990, the California native turned her efforts to singles. In 1992, Yamaguchi became the national, Olympic and world champion. Her gold medal win at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, broke a dry spell for the women’s team, which hadn’t clinched a gold since Dorothy Hamill in 1976. In 2008, Yamaguchi’s skating skills translated over to the dance floor, where she earned a new title, winner of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. This February, during the Vancouver Winter Games, she will be a special correspondent for the Today show.
Apolo Anton Ohno, Speed Skating
Picabo Street, Alpine Skiing
Dick Button, Figure Skating
Dick Button has certainly left his mark on the figure skating world. In the 1940s and 50s, he logged a long list of firsts, becoming the first to perform a flying camel spin, which he invented; the first to land a double axel; the first to land a triple jump; and the first American skater to win the Olympic title, which he did in both the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games. Since the early 1960s, Button has been a figure skating commentator for ABC Sports.
Eric Heiden, Speed Skating
Speed skater Eric Heiden took the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games by storm, placing first in all five speed skating events. He set new Olympic records in each distance, snatched a world record in the 10,000 meters and became the first (and still the only) American to win five gold medals in a single Winter Games. After retiring from speed skating, Heiden pursued cycling. He won the U.S. Professional Cycling Championship in 1985 and entered the Tour de France in 1986, though a fall prevented him from finishing. In February, Heiden, 51, now an orthopedic surgeon, will return to the Olympics. This time, as the U.S. Speedskating team’s doctor.
U.S. Men’s Hockey Team of 1980
The United States hockey team beat all odds when it landed in the medal round of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. In the semifinals, the team faced the Soviet Union, who had taken home the last four Olympic golds and pummeled the U.S., 10-3, in an exhibition game just weeks before. The game was a nail biter, tied until the U.S. team’s captain Mike Eruzione scored a goal with ten minutes of play to go. “Do you believe in miracles?” sportscaster Al Michaels famously asked in the last frenetic seconds of the game. “Yes!” The U.S. won 4-3 and advanced to play Finland in the final, ultimately claiming the gold. But it was the semifinal game that went down in Olympic history as the “Miracle on Ice.”
Peggy Fleming, Figure Skating
In 1961, United States figure skating was dealt a harsh blow when a plane flying the U.S. team to the world championship crashed outside of Brussels, Belgium. Peggy Fleming, then a 12-year-old skater from San Jose, California, lost her coach, Bill Kipp, in the accident. But she continued to skate. By 1967, Fleming had won four U.S., one North American and two world titles. To many, she represented the rebirth of skating. ABC’s Wide World of Sports declared her its Athlete of the Year in 1967, and the skater earned the United States its only gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
Scott Hamilton, Figure Skating
Dan Jansen, Speed Skating
When speed skater Dan Jansen won a gold medal at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, he received a congratulatory fax from former president Ronald Reagan saying, “good things come to those who wait!” Jansen made his Olympic debut at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, where, at age 18, he clinched a respectable fourth place finish. He returned in 1988, but his sister Jane died of leukemia the day of his first race. With the news weighing heavily on him, he fell in both the 500 meter and 1000 meter events. He competed again in 1992, but didn’t make medal standings. Sadly, it seemed like history was going to repeat itself yet again, when Jansen lost his footing during the 500 meter event in 1994’s Olympics in Lillehammer. But four days later, in the 1000 meter, he clocked a world record, and finally nabbed a gold. Victory never tasted so sweet!
Brian Boitano, Figure Skating
The 1988 Winter Games in Calgary was the highlight of an illustrious career for three-time Olympian Brian Boitano. It was a “Battle of the Brians,” with Boitano edging out his fiercest competitor, Canadian skater Brian Orser, for the gold in men’s singles. After some years skating professionally—and a rule change made by the International Skating Union in 1992, allowing professionals to be reinstated as eligible Olympic skaters—Boitano staged a comeback. In 1994, at age 30, he competed in Lillehammer but placed sixth. Post-Olympics, he toured with “Champions on Ice.” More recently, he has become a Food Network personality, as host of “What Would Brian Boitano Make?” The title of the show, which first aired in August 2009 and begins again in March, plays off a song called “What Would Brian Boitano Do” from the 1999 South Park movie.