Kerrigan touched young skaters' lives

February 25, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Anna Campos and Nikki Seegmuller know Nancy Kerrigan's every move.

Before the Olympics and before the scandal, Anna 11, of North Laurel, and Nikki, 8, of Ellicott City, saw the skater's elegant routine up close at the Tony Kent Arena in Cape Cod, Mass., where they traveled for training camps.

The last time they saw Ms. Kerrigan was just after Christmas -- a week before she was injured in an attack linked to the former husband of rival skater Tonya Harding. They practiced on the ice with Ms. Kerrigan as part of a five-day training session with Lisa Cappola, an employee of Ms. Kerrigan's coaches Evy and Mary Scotvold.

Over the past couple of years, Anna has been training at the arena at least once a year. Nikki began training there last summer.

Anna said Ms. Kerrigan began calling Nikki, "Freckles." And Nikki tried every day to set her gym bag next to Ms. Kerrigan's in the arena locker room.

"They would sit and look at her as if she were some queen or something," said Pat Muth, Anna and Nikki's trainer and an instructor at the Columbia Ice Rink.

Wednesday night they gathered at the Seegmuller's house, watching Ms. Kerrigan's televised performance with the same awe that struck them as they memorized her every move in Cape Cod.

They hummed along with her skating program music, "Desperate Love" by Mark Militano, and sat wide-eyed, anticipating each jump and turn.

"Now I see where you get your stuff from," said Paula Campos, Anna's mother, as Ms. Kerrigan began her skating program.

"Come on Nancy, you can do it," said Anna, who has been skating for three years, as Ms. Kerrigan moved into her combination -- a triple Lutz-double toe loop. "All right, come on. Nail it."

Nikki, who has been skating for two years, lay on a blanket on the floor, mostly quiet with her elbows perched on a pillow and her palms under her chin, smiling.

And then came Ms. Kerrigan's main jump, followed by Anna and Nikki's cheers.

"She did it!" "Way to go Nancy."

"So fluid; it's like turning on a facet," said William Seegmuller, Nikki's father, almost as excited as his daughter. "She's my favorite skater. I just think she's beautiful on ice . . . You have to feel sorry for Tonya Harding."

Not Anna and Nikki, though. They had waited for weeks for the 2 1/2 -minute show that placed Ms. Kerrigan in the lead among the women's figure skaters going into tonight's Olympic finals.

In previous Massachusetts trips, the two Howard girls hadn't skated when Ms. Kerrigan was on the ice. But in December, the pair had their first real opportunity to talk with Ms. Kerrigan during the eight-hour workout days.

In the week before the attack that injured Ms. Kerrigan's knee, threatening to knock her out of the Olympics, Anna and Nikki sat comfortably in the locker room next to their idol.

They'd ask Ms. Kerrigan what she thought about their double loops, while Ms. Kerrigan made jokes -- "Don't you think Constantine needs a haircut," referring to a Russian skater who also was training at the arena.

"They both came back imitating the Nancy program -- the Nancy spirals," said Karen Seegmuller, Nikki's mother, who traveled with the pair to Cape Cod.

When the news of the attack on Ms. Kerrigan first broke, Anna was angry. Nikki's mother didn't immediately tell her about it.

"She was so nice, I didn't think anybody would do that to her," said Nikki. "For two days I was really really sad."

So she mailed Ms. Kerrigan a letter. "I don't know if she got it," Nikki said.

It was a simple and short message: "I hope you feel better," and I said, "Good luck!"

The Seegmullers are planning a move to Delaware soon so that Nikki can train at the University of Delaware in pursuit of her skating career. There they hope to find more ice practice time than they can get in Howard County.

"If a child shows that this is something they really want to do, we want to support them," Ms. Seegmuller said.

In the meantime, Nikki and Anna will perform in the March 26 and 27 Mary Poppins ice show at the Columbia Ice Rink.

But tonight, along with most of the rest of the world, the two will be glued to the TV, holding their collective breath, hoping the skating program they know so well will bring Ms. Kerrigan an Olympic gold medal.

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