Kerrigan gratefully glides beyond Harding WINTER OLYMPICS

February 27, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

HAMAR, Norway -- The two policemen followed her into the interview room. The minicams circled her. Fans wanted her autograph. There was always one more interview to do, one more appearance to make.

Nancy Kerrigan spent the first day of the rest of her life as she had spent much of the past seven weeks: pursued.

"What I've been going through is a circus," she said yesterday. "Pretty ridiculous. I didn't like taking anything away from the other athletes. I came here to skate. I didn't ask for the media to come in hordes to the practices. It was a little too much."

She's on her own now, Nancy without Tonya.

Kerrigan has the silver medal in women's figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

Tonya Harding has a one-way ticket back to Portland, Ore., where she faces legal uncertainty and competitive limbo.

And the 16-year-old girl from Ukraine, Oksana Baiul, who ended this saga with a night of glory, has an unlimited skating future and a career that may soon take her to America to train.

The three-ring skating circus that dominated the five-ring Winter Olympics is now over.

Yesterday, there were no judging controversies, no bombshell news stories. There was only an elegant exhibition of champions.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean reprised their roles in Bolero, 10 years after they danced the number to win a gold in Sarajevo.

Frenchman Philippe Candeloro, who made his entrance wearing boxing gloves and an American flag, made Olympic history as the first topless skater -- he looked like he was auditioning for a job at Chippendale's.

And Kerrigan, wearing a yellow outfit, skated to Streisand, fell once on the ice, talked about the past seven weeks, and reflected on a performance that was not quite golden.

Asked if she had a good time at the Winter Olympics, she said softly, "No."

"Well, I haven't been with the athletes or hanging around the village of the Olympic park," she said.

Kerrigan didn't win the skating gold, after all, getting the silver on the closest of decisions as Baiul was awarded the top prize.

Friday night's finish was an extraordinary conclusion to skating's greatest drama.

On the ice, there was the sight of Kerrigan, giving the performance of her life, winning the crowd but losing the judges.

And there was Baiul, bloodied in a practice collision a day earlier, skating with three stitches in her right shin and a pain-killing injection in her back. She gave a wondrous performance, closing the show with a double-jump combination that was an act of childhood defiance coupled with skating genius.

Even though she said she had not looked at the videotape, Kerrigan said the gold medal could have been hers. "It's just a little bit upsetting," she said. "I was flawless. I had no touch downs. No bad landings. I made one mistake. I skated clean. Oksana didn't."

And what of Harding?

The image of her breaking down on the ice, her right boot lace loosened, will not be so easily forgotten. Neither will her final seconds in the Olympic spotlight, when she wheezed violently with an asthma attack, and waved to a skating crowd, perhaps, for the final time.

Kerrigan's view of Harding's performance: "I don't think I was upstaged by that at all. I don't think anyone was upstaged by it."

Did she see her rival skate?

"I was going to watch and then she was allowed to skate later, and I had to get ready," Kerrigan said. "They're bending lots of rules, I guess."

While Kerrigan is off to Disney World -- and endorsement heaven -- Harding goes back into a legal quagmire.

She faces problems on two fronts.

Her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly has implicated her in the Jan. 6 attack on Kerrigan. She has not been charged, but remains a suspect.

A criminal investigation in Portland grinds on. A grand jury has been hearing testimony and gathering evidence for more than a month in the Kerrigan case, and it is expected to return indictments by March 21.

Harding's skating career might also come to an end when a U.S. Figure Skating Association panel meets to discuss her membership status March 9. Harding's attorneys have asked for an indefinite delay in the hearing.

Dennis Rawlinson, one of Harding's lawyers and the husband of her coach, said in Norway that a settlement was possible. That comment drew a sharp reaction from John Bennett, the Portland attorney who has been gathering evidence for the figure skating association.

"No one has approached me and I know nothing about that, just what I read in the newspaper," Bennett said.

A special five-member panel has found reasonable cause to believe Harding was involved with or knew of the plot to assault Kerrigan. The hearing, expected to last three days, will determine if Harding's membership should be revoked, an action that would disqualify her from the World Championships March 22-27 in Chiba, Japan.

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