Turner on song in the short track after decade’s absence

Short track is now such an integral part of the Olympic programme that it is easy to forget that it was only included for the first time in 1992.

Picture by Allsport

The favourite for the inaugural women's 500m short track gold was Canada's Sylvie Daigle, who had previously competed twice as a speed skater at the Games before going on to win three world championship titles in short track.

At the Olympic test event in Albertville, she had underlined her credentials by breaking the 500m world record. However, at the Games proper she came up against another former speed skater, the USA’s Cathy Turner. She had won the US short track title more than a decade earlier while still a teenager. But when she missed out on selection for the 1980 Winter Olympic team, she decided to leave sport and pursue a career in music. Performing under the stage name of Nikki Newland she enjoyed a considerable degree of success as a singer and songwriter.

However, despite the fact she hadn’t gone near the ice for years, she never quite relinquished her love of skating.

In fact, it was almost a decade later, in 1988, that Turner finally succumbed and returned to the rink. The announcement that short-track skating would be included on the programme at the 1992 Winter Games made her decision all the easier, and she set about earning a place on the US team.


Despite the initial scepticism that greeted her return to competition after such a long absence, she qualified impressively for the Olympic team that travelled to Albertville.

As expected, her best event was the 500m sprint. It developed into a head-to-head contest between Turner and China's Li Yan. The Chinese athlete led heading towards the line, with Turner lunging at the last moment, and neither skater sure who had won. There followed an agonising wait until Turner was confirmed as the gold medallist, by a margin of just 0.04 seconds.

She then added to her medal haul, helping the USA to the silver in the relay. Two years later, Turner returned to the Olympic arena in Lillehammer to complete a successful defence of her title, this time adding a bronze in the relay bronze. Then, at the age of 35, she competed as part of the US relay team that finished fifth in Nagano in 1998. She subsequently went on to combine her sporting and musical talents with appearances in a skating show.