Friendly return for Kerrigan

February 05, 1994|By Josie Karp | Josie Karp,Special to The Sun

BOSTON -- The lights went down and the first strains of "America" reverberated throughout Northeastern University's Matthews Arena, and all the while the pervading thought was more along the lines of this: only in America.

For weeks now, the public's only glimpse of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan skating was on those oh-so-appropriate Campbell's Soup commercials. Figure skating first became a contact sport in this country almost a month ago, when Kerrigan was clubbed on the right knee as she prepared for the U.S. championships in Detroit. The soap opera that has evolved from coast-to-coast featured a sordid love story, but not much skating. That changed last night.

But even then, it was skating with a twist. The sellout crowd finally got a look at Kerrigan on the ice in the made-for-CBS special: "Nancy Kerrigan and Friends." Those friends included 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie, former Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton and former world champion Elaine Zayak. Those friends also included the more than 3,000 fans and Kerrigan supporters who turned out in the capital city of Kerrigan's home state. The show will be televised tonight at 9 on Channel 11.

"I was real nervous," said Kerrigan, who had not skated in front of a crowd since December. Kerrigan had a test earlier in the week when a group of U.S. skating officials judged her ready for the Olympics.

"It was a bigger test [tonight]," Kerrigan said, "because I was actually in front of a bigger crowd. I had to control my nerves and anxiety and things. . . . [The injured knee] doesn't keep me from doing anything. It doesn't hurt."

From the looks of her, Kerrigan was certainly recovered. Her outfit was vintage Kerrigan, a white bodice with sheer black sleeves. Her look was vintage: all legs and elegance and grace.

And if the performance was not vintage Kerrigan, worthy of an Olympic medal, it was enough to leave the skater and her coaches Mary and Evy Scotvold glowing when it was over.

"I think that was the most thrilling night I've had with Nancy Kerrigan," Evy said.

Kerrigan skated four numbers, including the short program she will skate in Lillehammer. During that program, her first of the show, Kerrigan was conservative and competent. She performed all eight required elements, including a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination.

Later, skating with Wylie, she nailed another triple. But Kerrigan saved the best for last, making three triples while skating in her third number.

"I thought it was perfect. Wonderful," Evy Scotvold said. "She was very aggressive. She was very nervous, but she dealt with it. I thought it was a perfect exercise for [Lillehammer]. "She got a standing ovation for I don't know how long. It's either inspiring, or it scares you."

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