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  Picture This: Kerrigan, Harding Meet by Accident

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 1994; Page B1

HAMAR, Norway, Feb. 16 — Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan broke the ice today after coming face to face for the first time since Harding's ex-husband implicated her in the attack designed to remove Kerrigan from the U.S. Olympic figure skating team.

Harding and Kerrigan "did greet each other," Mike Moran, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, told reporters. "They were coming from opposite directions in the [Olympic] Village. They were both with groups of friends. They stopped and talked and went on their way."

"It was pretty innocuous," said Jerry Solomon, Kerrigan's agent from Arlington, Va.-based ProServ. "They just chatted. It was not planned. I wouldn't say Nancy is happy or unhappy about it. She said it just happened. I don't think it's as much as people might build it up to be."

Later in the day, the 12 U.S. figure skaters posed for their official team photograph in a U.S. delegation conference room in the Olympic Village. Harding was at one end of the front row, Kerrigan at the other end. In the 10 to 15 minutes Harding and Kerrigan were in the room with the other skaters, "they acknowledged each other. They spoke. Definitely, broken ice," said Mahlon Bradley, a U.S. figure skating team leader and Kerrigan's liaison with Harding's camp.

Kerrigan and Harding are scheduled to practice together twice on Thursday. Placed together in women's practice Group 1 in a controversial decision by the International Skating Union, they will skate from 1:25 to 2:10 p.m. (Lillehammer time) on the training rink adjacent to the Olympic Amphitheatre, and again from 4:10 to 4:50 p.m. on the main rink inside the arena.

The USOC had asked the International Olympic Committee to intercede with the ISU to separate the two skaters, but tonight USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller said because today's meeting between the two had gone well, "it may all be passe."

"This has been made into a much bigger deal than it really is," said Solomon. "They have to just go out and skate."

In a team photo taken on Jan. 9, after the Olympic trials in Detroit, Harding and Kerrigan were seated together in the middle of the front row. The night before, Harding had won the national title and a berth on the Olympic team. Three days earlier, Kerrigan had been clubbed over the knee after a practice session at Detroit's Cobo Arena. She was given a spot on the Olympic team anyway.

Over the next three weeks, four men — including Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly — were arrested in connection with the plot to injure Kerrigan. Gillooly has implicated Harding in the planning of the attack; Harding admits knowing of the plot afterward and failing to report it immediately to authorities, but denies prior knowledge. She has not been charged, but faces a March 9 disciplinary hearing by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Harding spent 15 hours in planes and airports from Portland, Ore., to Oslo before she arrived here this afternoon. She was accompanied on her flight by her choreographer, Erika Bakacs; her coach, Diane Rawlinson; and her lawyer, Dennis Rawlinson, Diane's husband, who filed, on Harding's behalf, a $20 million suit against the USOC. That suit was dropped when the USOC agreed to drop its opposition to Harding skating at the Olympics.

She was also accompanied by reporter Joel Loy and other employees of the television show "Inside Edition" — Harding reportedly was paid $50,000 for an exclusive contract with the show — as well as CBS anchor Connie Chung and Associated Press reporters.

When asked by the AP reporter how she was able to concentrate when faced with so many distractions, Harding answered, "I 'tree' it. I leave it behind when I go on the ice and I pick it up again when I leave."

The women's figure skating competition begins Wednesday with the technical program and concludes two days later with the free skate.

Harding, looking relaxed and happy as light snow fell here this afternoon, arrived at the Olympic accreditation house near the center of town at 1:27 p.m. She waved to the assembled media and disappeared inside the building. Fifteen minutes later, after having her picture taken for an Olympic credential, drinking a cup of coffee and signing an autograph for a volunteer, she emerged.

"It feels great," Harding cheerfully shouted toward the cameras and reporters. "I'm ready." As she ducked into the car, she added, "Thanks for coming."

Harding's mother, meanwhile, remained in stable condition today at St. Clare's Hospital in Manhattan, a day after fainting at a television studio. Doctors were conducting tests to determine why LaVona Golden collapsed after taping "The Montel Williams Show" Tuesday afternoon. During the talk show segment, to be aired on Friday, Golden, sobbing and at times apparently overcome by emotion, asked the audience to support her daughter's bid for a medal.

"She needs all of you," Golden said. "If she goes out on that ice rink and is booed it will break her heart."

Harding's first practice on Thursday will now be the focus of international media attention. The only other member of practice Group 1 who has appeared at the Games is Lily Lyoonjung Lee of South Korea, who is from Alexandria, Va., but trains in Colorado Springs.

Lee and Kerrigan have been sharing the ice alone for nearly a week; in addition to Harding, the three other members of the practice group — Lenka Kulovana and Irena Zemanova of Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria's Zvetelina Abrasheva — have not attended any practice session to date.

While Kerrigan isn't talking about what she might say or do on the ice with Harding nearby, Lee is.

"When I meet people, I usually smile and hug them," Lee said.

Would she greet Harding that way?

"There will be a hug from Lily."

But, she said, "I'm going to get out of the locker room fast."

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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