CALGARY, FEB. 26 -- Two world records deprived Bonnie Blair of another gold medal in speed skating, but she did win the bronze tonight, becoming the most honored U.S. athlete at a Winter Olympics that has held little charm for great patriots.
She added her third-place medal in the women's 1,000-meter race to a gold she won two days ago with a world record time in the 500 meters. In the process she became the only double medalist among the U.S. athletes, who until her success were flirting with one of their worst Winter Games ever.
The United States has five medals, ensuring that these Games will not go down among its least memorable. There were two occasions when U.S. athletes won only four, in 1924 at Chamonix, France, and in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
One sport in which the U.S. athletes had hoped to surprise was in hockey, but they did not even make the medal round. The Soviet Union, predictably, clinched the hockey gold medal tonight with 7-1 victory over the Swedish team. The medal, which came two days before the close of the Games, left Sunday's contests to settle only the silver and bronze. It also raised the Soviets' medal total to 27, the best here and equaling their best ever, in the 1976 Innsbruck Games.
That made Blair's bronze accomplishment seem all the more impressive. A Champaign, Ill., native skating in the third pair at the Olympic Oval, she produced a U.S. record of 1:18.31, but two East Germans, Christa Rothenburger and Karin Enke-Kania, immediately bettered her time.
Skating in the next pair after Blair, Enke-Kania set a world record of 1:17.70 to break the previous mark of 1:18.11. Her silver medal makes her the most decorated speed skater in Olympic history, with seven awards spanning three Games.
Immediately after her came Rothenburger, the world champion whom Blair beat in the 500 two days ago. Rothenburger broke Enke-Kania's record with a time of 1:17.65. Those who wonder at the number of speed skating records should consider that these are more properly indoor marks. The records that have been broken were set during outdoor competitions.
"I wasn't really mentally prepared for the race," Blair said. "With all of the things going on and trying to let everything sink in from the 500."
She said that, before Monday's 500-meter race, friends told her to be content with her performances, no matter how good or bad.
"Whether you win or lose," she said she was told, "you have to be happy.
"And I am."
Today was the kind of day in which many countries tried to capture late prestige, as events become fewer and the Games wound down to Sunday's closing ceremonies.
It was also an unseasonably warm day, one in which some spectators even took off their shirts to watch skiing at Mount Allan, where Switzerland's Vreni Schneider became the first Alpine skier to win two gold medals with her victory in the women's slalom.
There is considerable hope for another U.S. medal in women's figure skating. On Saturday night, Debi Thomas of the United States will meet East Germany's Katarina Witt, the defending Olympic and world champion, in the long program to determine the medal. Thomas, the 1986 world champion, will effectively close the Games by skating last.
"I can look at it two ways," she said. "I can look at it like I'm going to be nervous, or like I'm finishing the whole Olympics."