U.S. Winter Olympians go out with a big finish Bush toasts athletes in White House affair


WASHINGTON -- They held a final reunion for the United States Winter Olympic class of 1992 at the White House yesterday.

Bonnie Blair, a double gold medalist in women's speed skating was there. And so were ladies' figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, freestyle skiing gold medalist Donna Weinbrecht and 140 other Americans who schussed, sledded and skated on mountains and ice rinks in Albertville, France, in February.

But it was a former lounge singer turned Olympic heroine who stole the show.

Cathy Turner kissed President Bush. And then she hugged him. Not once. But twice.

Would you have expected anything less from a woman who once wrote a song, "Sexy, Kinky Tomboy"?

"It was just a hug, and a few squeezes," said Turner, a double gold medalist in short-track speed skating. "He kissed me and turned, so I just kind of grabbed him. I can't believe I did that."

The day was filled with hi-jinks from Olympians still growing accustomed to life after Albertville.

During a morning breakfast at Vice President Dan Quayle's home, Nordic competitors Joe and Jim Holland decided to try the country's most famous putting green. The brothers from Hanover, N.H., expected a Secret Service detail to pounce on them.

"We figured we might get five minutes worth of putting in," Jim Holland said. "The next thing I know, the vice president was out there, putting with us. Then, it seemed like everyone just picked up a club and started to putt."

During the White House ceremony on the South Portico, the athletes tried to be on their best behavior. They applauded the president and Mrs. Bush. They laughed at all the president's punch lines. Then, they patiently filed by the president and vice president, shaking hands and exchanging greetings.

"It's an honor to have the team here," Bush said. "I almost didn't recognize you all without the interruption of commercials."

Wearing their trademark red, white and blue warm-up jackets, the Olympians were easy to spot. They had come from all corners of the country.

Figure skaters Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie took a 12-hour break from a world skating tour to come to the White House. They'll be back in the area this weekend, performing at the Baltimore Arena Saturday night and the Capital Centre Sunday.

Luger Bonny Warner had a day off from her job as a flight engineer for United Airlines. Hockey player Steve Heinze had nowhere else to go. He was on strike, a member of the Boston Bruins awaiting the outcome of negotiations between National Hockey League owners and players.

The president praised the team's 11-medal performance in Albertville, called all the athletes "winners and heroes" and looked forward to a future Olympics -- the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

D8 "White House to the world," he said. "I can't wait."

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