Talbot to skate despite grandfather's death LILLEHAMMER 94

February 18, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

HAMAR, Norway -- The ordeal of speed skater Kristen Talbot continues.

Last month, a day after U.S. speed skating trials, she donated bone marrow to her brother Jason, now an outpatient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

And Tuesday night, her grandfather Edward Talbot, 66, of Schuylerville, N.Y., died of a heart attack.

But the 23-year-old speed skater still will compete at the Winter Olympics in tomorrow's 500-meter race.

And her father, Gary Talbot, will be in the crowd.

"My grandmother insisted my father go and watch me skate," Kristen Talbot said yesterday. "My grandfather would have wanted it that way.

"My dad has been saying all along that if Jason got well enough, he would come to the Olympics. Somehow [the airline ticket] got paid for, and now he's coming."

Kristen Talbot said that her grandmother Fran "wants me to go out and skate for my grandfather and Jason."

The story of Kristen Talbot has been as compelling as any at these Olympics.

She is a three-time Olympian who simply isn't fast enough to win a medal. But she has won something more, the admiration of teammates, who have seen her struggle to come back after undergoing a procedure that may save the life of her brother, who has aplastic anemia.

"We were all saddened when we found out about the situation," said Bonnie Blair, who is favored in the 500 meters.

"But we were all elated when she decided to come out for the Olympics. We didn't want to see her have to stop."

Dan Jansen, who learned about the death of his sister, Jane Jansen Beres, hours before his Olympic race in 1988, said Talbot's story "brought a lot of memories.

"Kristen's priorities were in the right place," he said.

Doctors discovered last December that Jason Talbot, 19, has aplastic anemia, a disease that affects the bone marrow's production of red blood cells. Through a donor match he had a better chance of survival.

Kristen had two younger brothers who could have donated the marrow. But she wasn't about to let those boys be prodded with needles. So,she underwent the procedure a day after the trials.

"I wasn't thinking about skating when I did this," she said.

She was thinking of her brother, who has recovered so quickly he has been placed in an outpatient program in Baltimore.

"His blood counts are good," she said. "I talk to him a couple times a week. He's the same old brother he was before. He wishes me luck."

They didn't always get along growing up. It was typical brother-sister stuff. Nothing serious. She was a devoted speed skater, while Jason gave up the sport to play guitar in a rock band.

"I was the only child for 3 1/2 years," she said. "Then he came along and stole the show."

But when her brother needed her most, she didn't flinch.

Doctors extracted the bone marrow with needles that left marks in her hips. She was sore for a week after the procedure, but she came back to the ice, just as strong and fast as before.

"Health is very important and it can be snatched away from you so quickly," she said. "Family is so important, too. I could put aside skating pretty quickly."

She is embarrassed by all the attention she has received. Letters have poured in from around the country. Dozens of newspaper articles and television features have detailed her courage.

"I guess I would have liked to have been known for the athletic part," she said. "I'd like to be known for my skating."

But she is resigned to the fact that people know her because of illness and sacrifice.

She will race tomorrow in memory of her grandfather and in honor of her brother.

Can she win a medal?

"No," she said. "My brother realizes that that is not a realistic thought for myself."

But Kristen Talbot has a dream -- a dream that her brother Jason will grow stronger, return to speed skating, and become an Olympian in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.

"He wants to get back into skating," she said. "You might just see another Talbot at the Olympics."

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