An ambassador of peace ushers Kerrigan, Harding LILLEHAMMER 94

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

HAMAR, Norway -- She talked of lace outfits with Nancy Kerrigan and a hair pin with Tonya Harding.

She gave her feuding friends plenty of room to maneuver around the ice.

And after two of the most-watched practices in Winter Olympic history, Lily Lyoonjung Lee of South Korea found herself providing an analysis of a skating soap opera.

As reporters shouted questions to her, Lee yelled up a runway to Kerrigan, "Nancy, Nancy, look what is happening to me."

Until this week, Lee, born and raised in Alexandria, Va., was simply known as the women's champion representing her parents' country, South Korea.

But all of that changed the moment she was placed in the practice group with the American women.

For the first few days, Lee skated alone with Kerrigan and was unnerved by the attention.

"The third day, I cried and cried and cried," Lee said.

But yesterday, she was the first on the ice when Kerrigan and Harding finally skated face to face in an Olympic practice.

"There was so much media," Lee said. "I've never seen that in my life."

The contingent of 500 reporters and photographers crammed into a tiny auxiliary practice rink for the first afternoon practice astonished Lee and nearly everyone associated with skating.

There was palpable tension throughout the session, as cameras clicked in unison the few times Harding and Kerrigan crossed paths.

"I would say it was electric," U.S. Figure Skating Association president Claire Ferguson said. "It was the anticipation. Did you expect anything else?"

Security was tight, too, as 150 unarmed soldiers and police were mobilized after Olympic officials received two vague telephone threats to Kerrigan and Harding in the past week.

"The Olympics are not intended to be a circus," said Kerrigan's agent, Jerry Solomon.

"I don't know how you get in the building," he said. "This place is tightly controlled out there. When I came in, I thought that Clinton must be here.

"It was hard for me to get in the first four days. Today, I couldn't get out."

All were there to watch the Americans, including Lee.

"I skated in front of fewer people in the South Korean championships," she said.

"Yeah, like three," added her coach, Kathy Casey. "Your father and two other people."

"Oh, there were more than that," Lee said.

"OK, maybe 50," Casey said.

Lee took her role as a Henry Kissinger on skates seriously as she sought to break the ice between Kerrigan and Harding.

"I don't want to put one on to the other," she said.

"I've always been friends with both of them. I like to be the happy medium."

In the locker room, she and Kerrigan talked of their lace outfits.

"We were laughing because we both had lace dresses," Lee said. "She said, 'Lily, do you have a white dress on?' I said, 'No. Pink.' We had a joke. 'Oh, the East Coast girls have the lace dresses on.' "

Lee added that Kerrigan "was very tired of not going to the movies, not going shopping, not going to the grocery store," in the wake of the publicity after she was assaulted Jan. 6 in Detroit.

Later, with Harding, Lee talked of a rhinestone hair pin.

"She gave me that hair pin at Munich at the World Championships in 1991," Lee said.

"When I first saw her here, I hugged her and asked her,'How are you?' "

Harding said, "Fine."

"There wasn't any tension out there," Lee said.

After all, it was just a couple of practices.

"This is the Olympics," Lee said. "And it's supposed to be fun."

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