Ankle 'fine' but Harding still a bit jumpy LILLEHAMMER 94

February 21, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

HAMAR, Norway -- She skated. She smiled. She landed four consecutive triple axels, among the toughest jumps in the sport.

Tonya Harding showed yesterday that reports of her skating demise have been greatly exaggerated.

She out-skated her American rival Nancy Kerrigan in a pair of practice sessions that came the day after reports swirled that her status for the Winter Olympics was clouded by an injured right ankle.

"It's fine," she said, giving a thumbs-up sign after a workout.

Not all is well, however, in the Harding camp, as the skater abruptly ended an interview with CBS-TV's Connie Chung.

Harding was asked what she thought of statements by two Czech figure skating judges who said they would be influenced by the fact Harding failed to tell authorities all she knew about the attack on Kerrigan.

"I'm not going to answer that," she said. "OK, I'm done. I'm done with this."

But at least at the practice arena she has shown improvement after two subpar sessions.

"We sat down and talked about it," said Dennis Rawlinson, Harding's attorney and the husband of her coach.

"She realized that doing that, crying and leaving the ice and complaining about her ankle, wasn't going to help her," he said. "She needs to remain positive."

Harding also has received 61 messages through the electronic mail system at the Olympics. One of the messages was a letter of support from the U.S. hockey team, according to fellow skater Lily Lyoonjung Lee of South Korea.

"I didn't get the feeling of anyone giving her dirty looks in the village or staying away from her," said Lee, an Alexandria, Va., native.

Meanwhile, the U.S. alternate, 13-year-old Michelle Kwan, held a news conference yesterday to detail her training in Oslo, her shopping spree in Lillehammer and her dreams of skating at the Winter Olympics -- four years from now.

Today, though, Kwan will be on the outside looking in as judges execute the draw -- the last official act before the women's competition begins Wednesday.

Harding and Kerrigan will not be placed in the same group of skaters. Because she failed to advance to last year's World Championships, Harding will have to pick a lot for one of the first 17 places in the draw.

Kerrigan will be among the last 10 to perform in the technical program.

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