Kerrigan, Harding get berths

January 09, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Finally, the night belonged to Tonya Harding, and to Nancy Kerrigan.

It was Harding who skated and won last night's women's title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

And it was Kerrigan, injured by an unknown male assailant and unable to skate, who was awarded a second berth with Harding at next month's Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Out of the running and out of the Olympics were Michelle Kwan, a 13-year-old who was second, Nicole Bobek, third, and Elaine Zayak, fourth.

"I don't think I was surprised because of my past record," Kerrigan said, "but I'm glad they're taking me."

It was the perfect end to an imperfect week of skating that was overshadowed when an attacker bashed Kerrigan on the right knee Thursday before fleeing the practice arena Thursday.

Kerrigan, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and 1993 U.S. champion, couldn't skate. But now, she can go to Norway, thanks to the U.S. Figure Skating Association's International Committee, which used its broad powers to name the team.

Kerrigan will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam tomorrow in Boston. If the MRI comes up negative, Kerrigan, is expected to skate within a week, and practice her jumps within two weeks.

Then, she will have to perform before a five-member USFSA panel by Feb. 6 to ensure her effectiveness for the Olympics. If she isn't ready, then Kwan, the alternate, will go to Norway.

"I think it's fine," Kwan said. "Everything I've gotten is incredible already."

Kwan's coach, Frank Carroll, agreed.

"Why should Nancy be discarded because of some crazed maniac?" he said. "Nancy should go. I think she would have won this competition."

The U.S. Olympic Committee applauded the decision to name Kerrigan. "She has been the victim of a senseless and brutal act, but she has demonstrated toughness and the competitive spirit that only an Olympian would have," USOC executive director Harvey Schiller said.

Meanwhile, Detroit police continued their investigation into the Kerrigan attack, distributing two sketches of the assailant. Based on eyewitness accounts, the police could not determine if the attacker was black or white.

"We are pursuing every lead," said deputy police chief Benny Napoleon.

Despite the tight security at Joe Louis Arena and the frayed nerves, the skaters offered up a glittering though flawed night of skating.

Harding was clearly the best performer on ice.

Dressed in purple and gold and wearing a grimace of determination, the pugnacious 23-year-old from Portland, Ore., battled through her four-minute program to win her second U.S. title.

Harding wasn't flawless, but it didn't matter. Burdened by an asthma attack, she converted five triple jumps and swept the panel of nine judges. "I came here to win and I did," she said. "I think I've proven myself worthy."

Harding didn't perform her signature move, a triple axel. But she didn't need to, either.

"I did the best I could," she said. "And I won. My stamina is better than two years ago and my overall performance was better, too."

Harding may be the present of American women's skating, but (( the future is Kwan, the 4-foot-11, 77-pound dynamo.

Normally perfect and unflappable, she completed four of seven planned triple jumps. She also fell on a triple salchow. Despite the bobbles, she showed glimpses of spunk and charisma.

"My performance was good," Kwan said. "But I wish I had done better."

So did Bobek. Nervous and distracted, the 16-year-old daughter of a Czech immigrant turned the Can-Can into the Can't-Can't, completing only three triple jumps and touching down once with her hand.

Zayak hadn't competed on the world stage since finishing third at the 1984 World Championships. But her professional polish, plus her enthusiasm, enabled her to put together a stirring comeback.

Last night, she wept before and after she skated. Her program may have been technically barren -- including only three triple jumps -- but it packed an emotional wallop.

"It was the crowd that got to me," Zayak said. "I can't believe

what happened."

Harding, though, had no trouble believing in herself.

She won a title, but missed her most feared American rival, Kerrigan.

"It won't be a complete title without competing against Nancy," she said. "It doesn't feel quite complete. But at the Olympics, it will feel quite complete."

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