Harding vows to win gold LILLEHAMMER '94

February 15, 1994|By Newsday

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Tonya Harding, whose asthma flared up yesterday, puffed and coughed through her final figure skating workout in Portland.

Then she promised her fans a victory at the Winter Olympics.

After finishing her practice with a spiraling flourish at center ice, Harding went to the rink's public address system.

"Thank you for all your support. It means the world to me," Harding told the crowd packed into the Clackamas Town Center mall. "Believe in me, because I'm going to go there and I'm going to win for you and for me. I love you."

She is scheduled to leave today for Lillehammer, Norway.

But even as Harding prepared to leave for the Games, a Multnomah County grand jury continued to hear evidence in connection with Harding's alleged role in last month's attack on her skating rival Nancy Kerrigan. Harding's former husband, Jeff Gillooly, has pleaded guilty for his role in plotting the attack and implicated Harding in the crime.

Yesterday, the grand jury heard testimony on Harding's character from a former boyfriend, Mike Pliska, a mechanical engineer. Pliska dated Harding in 1991, when she was separated from Gillooly, whom she married in 1990.

Pliska said prosecutors asked him yesterday if he had ever known Harding to lie.

"To that, I had to give an unqualified yes," he told reporters outside the courthouse.

Harding's lawyers declined to comment on Pliska's testimony.

Despite her asthma symptoms, which forced Harding to repeatedly interrupt her practice routines, the 23-year-old skater hit most of her triple-axels and appeared pleased with her workout.

The crowd of more than 2,000 fans tossed two bouquets of flowers and a stuffed teddy bear onto the ice when she finished.

Elaine Stamm, president of the Tonya Harding Fan Club, which has doubled to more than 800 since Harding won the national championships last month, presented her with gifts.

Members of the club gave her six leotards -- including three that are red, white and blue -- a coffee mug from a local coffee shop that features a "Tonya Twirl" blend of java, and $1,000 spending money to take to the Olympics.

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