Tonya Prepares for Games, Competing With Kerrigan
US skating champion heads for Olympics after court deal is reached
OREGON CITY, ORE. — NOW that a deal has been reached allowing Tonya Harding to compete in the Olympics, she and rival US figure skater Nancy Kerrigan face the prospect of seeing one other face to face.
They will live in the same building at the athletes' village in Hamar, practice on the same rink (both declined working out at separate rinks), and compete in the technical program Feb. 23 and the freeskating finale Feb. 25.
Harding secured a berth in the Winter Games in a surprise deal with the United States Olympic Committee following Saturday's opening ceremony in Lillehammer, Norway. (Olympic coverage, Page 12.)
The deal, reached in an Oregon court, calls for her to drop her $25 million lawsuit against the USOC, and for the USOC to let her join in the Olympics without a disciplinary hearing.
But Harding remains under investigation by a grand jury in Portland, Ore., and still faces disciplinary action by the US Figure Skating Association (USFSA) after the Olympics.
She will join rival US skater Nancy Kerrigan at the Olympics. Harding is accused by her ex-husband of helping plot the knee-clubbing of Kerrigan Jan. 6 at the national championships in Detroit. Four of her associates were charged in the attack.
Harding has not been charged and has denied involvement, but has admitted she didn't go to authorities promptly after learning her associates were involved.
Meanwhile, Kerrigan has signed a $1 million deal with ABC-TV, Disney, and a Hollywood producer for a TV movie and skating special, Newsweek reported in editions available yesterday. The deal will also include a book, appearances at a Disney theme park, and perhaps a doll.
``I finally get to prove to the world I can win a gold medal,'' Harding told reporters after the deal was announced.
On Saturday, the biggest media feeding frenzy of the Games thus far occurred when Kerrigan appeared for a rather orchestrated press conference. Though the auditorium was jammed with a thousand or so members of the press, most questions were fed by the USFSA's press attache. The session ended abruptly when the theme turned to her relations with Harding, but not until she'd said she hadn't come to grips with the specter of a possible hug from Harding.
In a statement issued Sunday, Kerrigan noted that the 35 days since she was hit ``have been trying ones. It seems now that for the moment, and as it relates to the Olympic competition, the matter has been resolved. Regardless of my opinion on the ruling, the Olympics have begun, and it is time to skate.''
Asked whether the USOC had backed down in the face of Harding's suit, USOC spokesman Mike Moran said ``that would be inaccurate.''
In Lillehammer, he said the agreement was ``very much a combination of the right thing to do, plus the time left and the distractions to the athletes.''
``This case involved difficult legal issues and well-warranted concerns on both sides,'' Clackamas County (Ore.) Circuit Judge Patrick Gilroy said in his court order. ``The USOC has the right and obligation to oversee and discipline certain conduct of its Olympic athletes. Tonya Harding has the right to a fair and impartial hearing regarding claimed ethical violations and the right to prepare adequately for same.''
The assault was ``not only an attack on the athlete, but an assault on the basic ideals of the Olympic movement and sportsmanship. The attack was designed to cripple her, alter the competition, and could have ended her career. We remain concerned about this incident,'' Judge Gilroy added.
If found guilty of breaking the USFSA's ethics code, Harding could be stripped of association membership, stopping her from skating in future competitions.
USFSA president Claire Ferguson said Sunday Harding and Kerrigan were ``in agreement with the USOC on the resolution of the situation.''