New Blair on big oval: Bonnie's daughter is a speedskater

In this Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 photo, Bonnie Blair talks to a reporter during the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating trials in Milwaukee. There's a new Blair in speedskating. And she's the teenage daughter of Olympic speedskating star Bonnie Blair. Blair Cruikshank competes in the 500 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials on Friday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 photo, Blair Cruikshank talks to a reporter during the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating trials in Milwaukee. There's a new Blair in speedskating. And she's the teenage daughter of Olympic speedskating star Bonnie Blair. Blair Cruikshank competes in the 500 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials on Friday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 photo, Bonnie Blair talks to a reporter during the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating trials in Milwaukee. There's a new Blair in speedskating. And she's the teenage daughter of Olympic speedskating star Bonnie Blair. Blair Cruikshank competes in the 500 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials on Friday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 photo, Bonnie Blair, left, talks to her daughter Blair Cruikshank during the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating trials in Milwaukee. There's a new Blair in speedskating. And she's the teenage daughter of Olympic speedskating star Bonnie Blair. Blair Cruikshank competes in the 500 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials on Friday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE — There's a new Blair on the big oval. The daughter of Olympic champion speedskater Bonnie Blair has taken up her mom's old sport.

Even before strapping on her clap skates, you can't miss the family connection. Blair Cruikshank is a high school senior who got interested in speedskating three years ago.

"Literally couldn't do a crossover stroke," Bonnie says, smiling.

Her daughter has made great progress since, qualifying to compete in the 500 meters Friday at the U.S. Olympic trials. She's not expected to make the team for the Pyeongchang Games.

"I'm hoping to just get a personal best," Blair said. "I'm focusing on a few little things and not worried about too much but just come out and have fun. Hopefully get a new PB, that's exciting."

Her real target is the 2022 Olympics. And she'd like to expand to the 1,000 and maybe even the 1,500.

The two shorter distances were Bonnie's specialties. She won five golds and a bronze over three games, helping maintain speedskating as America's most successful Winter Olympic sport.

So no pressure, Blair?

"I just worry about my thing and not about what other people think or their expectations," she said. "They're just happy to see the daughter of Bonnie Blair out there."

Especially in Milwaukee and at the Pettit National Ice Center. That's where Bonnie, born in Illinois, moved to train. The 53-year-old champion has stayed close to the sport, serving on the Pettit's board of directors and promoting Milwaukee, which is hosting its first Olympic trials in 25 years.

Blair's dad, four-time Olympian Dave Cruikshank, is a familiar face in the building, too. He works in performance training with hockey players.

The couple's 19-year-old son, Grant, plays junior hockey in Canada. Before moving north, he used to play in the Pettit. A former competitive gymnast who was derailed by wrist injuries, Blair would come out with her friends for the public skating sessions.

"I tried on a speed skate and got out there," she said. "I ended up really liking it."

Befitting their parents' past, the Cruikshank kids grew up playing sports, including soccer and golf.

"Everything we did, it was just all about competition," said Grant, who tried speedskating but prefers the team atmosphere of hockey. "It just kind of runs in our blood."

Bonnie jokes, "We've definitely been in an ice rink and we're not getting out of it anytime soon."

However, the siblings say their parents never pressured them.

"They support us so much in whatever we do, whether it's sports or school," Grant said. "Whatever we love to do, that's kind of what they want us to do."

The only thing Bonnie wanted was for her kids to find something they loved and were passionate about.

"Like we say, 'Find something you truly love so that you can give back to it,'" she said. "What's really hard is when you're having those more difficult days, you've got to be able to dig down deep and be able to go out there and do what it takes to be the best you can be even on the hardest days."

Blair is coached by her father and another former speedskater. Her mother tries to stay out of it, for the most part.

"I'm not totally a silent bystander," Bonnie said. "If I see some different things I usually try to talk to Dave about it so she doesn't have so many things coming in her ears from so many different directions."

Blair and Grant are used to other people's reactions to their parents, starting when they were young and their parents were recognized during trips to the grocery store.

And then there's Bonnie's Olympic medals. They are displayed in the family living room.

"Every day we see them," Blair said.

And yet the spectacle of all that gold doesn't faze Blair.

"She takes it all in stride," Bonnie said. "She knows what we did, she appreciates what we did, but she's ready to kind of stand on the ice by herself, see what she can do."

Mom, Dad and Grant will be in the stands Friday cheering Blair.

"This really is a big deal for her and for us," Bonnie said. "We're very excited."

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