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  Kerrigan Picked to Join Harding for Olympics

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 1994; Page D1

DETROIT, Jan. 8 — Nancy Kerrigan, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist who was injured during an attack Thursday, was selected to the U.S. Olympic team by the U.S. Figure Skating Association's international committee late tonight.

She will be joined by 1991 national champion Tonya Harding, who won the U.S. Olympic trials tonight at Joe Louis Arena with a steady performance featuring five triple jumps. She did not fall, and although she did not attempt the difficult triple Axel, she dominated the competition.

Michelle Kwan, 13, nailed four triple jumps out of the six she had planned, and finished second. Kwan fell on a triple Salchow midway through the four-minute program.

Kwan would have gone to the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, next month had Kerrigan not been voted to the team.

The 45-member international committee, meeting minutes after the competition ended, allowed Kerrigan to make the Olympic team because of a little-used USFSA rule. It simply states that the organization may consider placing on the Olympic team skaters who do not compete at the trials. This means they will send Harding and Kerrigan; Kwan becomes the first alternate and would replace Kerrigan if she is not healthy enough to skate at the Olympics by Feb. 23, the date the women's competition begins.

"I feel fine," Kwan said of the USFSA's decision to send Kerrigan. Harding and Kerrigan "both deserve to go to the Olympics. What I got was incredible already."

Nicole Bobek, 16, who fell once and completed just three triple jumps, was third. Elaine Zayak, the 28-year-old returning professional who competed at the 1984 Olympics, hit four triples and finished fourth.

For Harding, who in 1991 became the only U.S. woman to nail a triple Axel in competition, this victory was the culmination of a difficult climb back from adversity. She won the national title that year — and hasn't hit the triple Axel since then. A series of mishaps — from an outfit that unsnapped during competition to bad skate blades and boots to a coaching change to a recent death threat — had prevented her from regaining her 1991 form.

"I came here to win, and I did," Harding said. "I think I've proven myself."

Sentiment ran heavily in Kerrigan's favor. She was forced to withdraw after being clubbed above her right knee by a man after a practice Thursday. Signs scattered around the arena saluted Kerrigan, who was there watching with her parents from a skybox. "We Love You, Nancy," several banners read.

The selection was expected. Kerrigan, the 1993 national champion, is an experienced international skater with the kind of reputation and resume that earns points with Olympic judges. She won the 1991 world championship bronze medal, 1992 Olympic bronze medal and 1992 world championship silver medal before dropping to fifth at the 1993 worlds.

It was that finish, coming after a disastrous free skate, that led her to seek out a sports psychologist, a former figure skater named Cindy Adams. Kerrigan credited Adams with helping her to concentrate during her programs, and she has liked the results.

At two recent competitions, a pre-Olympic meet in Norway and a pro-am in Philadelphia, Kerrigan skated well and won. In Norway, she defeated four of her top five international competitors. Only Ukrainian Oksana Baiul, the reigning world champion, has not competed against Kerrigan this year, and Baiul has not been having a good year.

Kerrigan said Wednesday, before the attack, that she was having very good practices. She had been running through her four-minute free skate program two times in a row to increase her stamina, and had been pleased with the results.

After the injury, Kerrigan said, "I want to prove that all of this wasn't a waste."

Kerrigan, 24, of Stoneham, Mass., suffered a bruise and extended swelling above and around her knee from the attack, but still was hoping to be able to skate here.

However, when she awoke Friday morning, she could not completely bend and straighten her knee and also had trouble hopping up and down on it. Doctors decided she could not handle the rigors of skating and jumping, and she was forced to withdraw.

She watched the competition from the box of Detroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and planned to fly to Boston Sunday. She will have a magnetic reasonance imaging (MRI) test Monday.

Kerrigan could begin skating within a week and jumping in two weeks, one of her doctors told ABC Sports. She will be asked to perform in front of USFSA doctors and officials monitoring her progress at the end of the month to determine if she is capable of competing in Lillehammer.

She still would have several weeks to get ready for Olympic competition.

In addition to her physical recovery, there is some question how she will react emotionally to the attack. Adams has been with Kerrigan the past couple days and is helping her to mend emotionally, Kerrigan's coaches said.

It's clear Kerrigan will not sequester herself as tennis star Monica Seles did after she was stabbed in Germany last April. Kerrigan already has held one news conference, has been interviewed on national television twice and has come to the arena twice to watch competition.

"It would be really hard to be less of a public person," Kerrigan said with a wan smile. "Since this happened, I've been on the news every half-hour."

The competition went on as Detroit police said they continued to work on leads in catching the man who attacked Kerrigan at Cobo Arena. Because Seles was stabbed by a fan of rival Steffi Graf, police still are checking on connections between fans of other skaters and Kerrigan.

For instance, Detroit police interviewed a Portland, Ore., writer who received a threatening message on her voice mail when she wrote a critical column about Harding.

The police released two sketches of the suspect, who, according to newly released videotape, was waiting behind a blue curtain and clubbed Kerrigan with a blunt object as she went from the practice rink to the locker room.

One sketch was of a white man. The other was of a light-skinned black man. Detroit deputy police chief Benny Napoleon told ABC Sports tonight that four eye witnesses identified the man who hit Kerrigan as white and two identified the suspect as black.

Dispute in Pairs
There's nothing like a little judging controversy to add some spice.

In the pairs competition this afternoon, judges inexplicably voted a pair that fell three times onto the Olympic team, and left out a pair that didn't fall at all.

As expected, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand finished first, followed by Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen. Few had complaints about their places, though neither pair performed particularly well.

But unlike in the men's, women's and dance competition, the United States has three Olympic berths in pairs, based on Meno and Sand's fifth-place finish at last year's world championships. That third spot was the controversial one.

Karen Courtland and Todd Reynolds made the Olympic team despite a horrible free skate. She fell twice on their side-by-side jumps, and they both tripped and fell doing footwork in the middle of the ice. The tumbles were synchronized, however; side-by-side pratfalls.

"I don't know exactly what it was," said Courtland, weepy with tears of joy. "I know I had two falls, but everything else was well-skated, I thought."

The judges thought so too, giving them marks as high as 5.6. That boxed out Natasha Kuchiki and Rocky Marval, both 1992 Olympians (with other partners) who skated after them and clearly were better. They were not perfect — Kuchiki twice turned double jumps into singles, and two-footed two landings — but neither fell.

Skaters rarely criticize judges, but asked to compare his team's performance with Courtland and Reynolds's, Marval couldn't resist. "We stayed on our feet a little more," he said wryly. "It's all relative and everyone has a different opinion."

Marval, who split with Calla Urbanski, his 1992 Olympic partner, in July, has been skating with Kuchiki for just four months. (Kuchiki had teamed with Sand in the 1992 Olympics.) At their first competition, last month's Eastern Sectionals, they skated poorly, which sealed their fate here. "From what I understood," Marval said, "we were counted out from the beginning ... . Because we're so new, we don't have a track record yet."

Marval and Kuchiki finished three places above Urbanski and her new partner, Joseph Mero. Urbanski, a waitress from Wilmington, Del., fell three times.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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