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  Improved Practice Boosts Harding's Outlook

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 1994; Page C10

HAMAR, Norway, Feb. 20 — In Tonya Harding's camp, there were, finally, some moments of relief today.

Harding, who has a sprained right ankle, practiced well during her second training session of the afternoon to the constant applause of her coaches and U.S. Olympic officials trying to boost her sagging spirits.

"It's all right," she shouted to reporters who asked about her ankle as she left the training rink adjacent to the Olympic Amphitheatre. "It's better."

Nancy Kerrigan, meanwhile, skated with a mistake or two in each of the two practices today, but continued to appear upbeat and completely oblivious to Harding, whom some reports have linked to the Jan. 6 attack on Kerrigan's right knee. Harding has denied any wrongdoing.

But Evy Scotvold, one of Kerrigan's coaches, made it clear that the Kerrigan camp doesn't hold Harding — or her work habits — in high regard.

"I haven't watched her program," Scotvold said when asked about how he thought Harding looked, quickly adding, "I don't think she's done one since she's been here."

Harding has consistently stopped during her programs throughout her first four days of practice. On Friday, she stormed out of the rink with half her practice time still remaining; on Saturday, she cried for several minutes before returning to the ice.

When asked what he thought about a skater who behaved as Harding had the past few days, Scotvold said the skater "probably has problems."

He continued: "Maybe the skater isn't ready, maybe they're not disciplined. Our skaters don't barge off the ice. You can't do it twice in a career with us."

When Harding's coach, Diane Rawlinson, was asked about Harding's actions, she called her pupil's first three Olympic practice sessions "incredible," but said, "yesterday, Tonya wasn't skating well because she wasn't happy about a picture in the paper."

It was unclear what photo that was.

The popular impression here is that neither Kerrigan nor Harding is paying any attention to the other. But Scotvold said that's not entirely true. Kerrigan's choice of attire for their first shared practice session last Thursday — the white lace dress she was wearing when she was attacked in Detroit — was not coincidental.

"She wanted to make a statement: 'I'm here, I'm in the same outfit,' " Scotvold said with a smile. "Nancy likes to tease a little. She wants to have fun."

After taking a day off from skating Saturday and attending Bonnie Blair's speed skating race and the men's figure skating competition, Kerrigan returned to the ice today and performed her difficult combination jumps beautifully, but had some trouble with a couple of triple jumps.

Harding, in her first practice session this afternoon, failed to even try a triple jump of any kind in her short program, and also completely omitted her combination jump. But she rebounded nicely in the later session and, by the time she was finished, had completed four of five triple Axels, the difficult, 3 1/2-revolution jump she hasn't hit in competition in three years.

Gale Tanger, a U.S. figure skating team leader, said that doctors are monitoring Harding's ankle, but she has not been given any medication.

"We are concerned about it," Tanger said. "We are watching it. I thought she looked very good today. When you see a happy skater, you usually see a good practice follow that."

Scotvold said he is very pleased with Kerrigan's preparation for the competition.

The draw to determine the skating order is set for noon Monday. The technical program is Wednesday; the free skate, Friday.

"It's great," he said. "It couldn't be better for where we want her to be right now. She's a lot more experienced coming in here. She has learned from being in the Olympics before {she won a bronze medal in 1992} and learned from having an off performance at the world championships {fifth place in 1993}. She's learned from her mistakes."

Scotvold said that Kerrigan is mentally tougher because of the attack that severely bruised the knee on her landing leg.

"This has made her stronger and very determined," he said.

Kerrigan also weighs 10 pounds less than she did at the worlds last March, down from 120 to about 110, he said.

"It makes you quicker, gives you more endurance," he said.

All of which led Scotvold to say he believes "three people can win the gold medal," and Kerrigan, he said, is one of them. He playfully refused to divulge the other two names, but did say they finished in the top five at the 1993 world championships. Oksana Baiul of Ukraine won that competition, followed by France's Surya Bonaly, China's Lu Chen and Japan's Yuka Sato.

Harding's name is nowhere to be found on that list because she finished fourth at last year's U.S. nationals and failed to qualify for the worlds.

Scotvold said the key for Kerrigan is to not get nervous.

"If she just stays calm, she'll have a fun week," he said.

And how does he convince her to remain calm?

"If I knew how to do it," Scotvold said, "I'd make even more money than Nancy."

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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