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  Support for Harding Is Thin at Area Rinks

By Jane Seaberry and Avis Thomas Lester
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 27, 1994; Page B3




Poor Tonya!

Not only did U.S. Olympic skater Tonya Harding snap a skate lace before her final performance Friday night, break down in tears before millions of television viewers and not win even a bronze medal, but skaters throughout the Washington area still don't like her.

"Someone needs to turn her over their knee," said teacher Laura Britton, 39, of Falls Church, who was skating at the Fairfax Ice Arena yesterday.

"I don't think Tonya Harding should have been in it. It wasn't fair," opined 14-year-old Angel Harris, of Washington, who was tackling the ice — and a Norway-like windchill — on the Mall.

While the last speeches were being written to mark the end of the 17th Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, the talk around area rinks yesterday still focused on Harding, silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan and whether each woman got her due.

From Fairfax City to Fort DuPont Park in Southeast Washington, people had strong opinions about whether Kerrigan should have been awarded the gold medal rather than Oksana Baiul of Ukraine; whether Harding, who finished eighth, was an embarrassment to the United States (skaters said overwhelmingly that she was); and whether Friday night's judging had been fair.

Several skaters said they couldn't wait for Kerrigan to finally divulge her feelings about her teammate, who has been implicated by her former husband in the attack seven weeks ago that left Kerrigan with a severely bruised knee. Harding has denied the allegation.

"It's only obvious to anyone with any common knowledge that {Harding} was involved" in the attack, said Dionne Draper, 26, a purchasing agent who brought her son, Deonte, 4, to the Mall for his first skating lesson. Kerrigan "put it all behind her. She put on her best performance. She really did wonderfully."

"I thought Nancy Kerrigan should have won," said Alexandria homemaker Margaret Veenstra, 29. "I thought she was smoother, she jumped higher."

Joanne Smith, 17, who was skating on the Mall during a visit from North Carolina, would have given Kerrigan the sympathy vote.

"I think Nancy Kerrigan should have gotten the gold," Smith said. "She's been through a lot. As for Tonya, I don't know what to say about her. She wasn't classy enough to win the gold anyway."

Although most skaters spoke of Kerrigan as though they were her fan club founders, some said that Baiul had offered something different and deserved her first-place finish.

"I really liked Oksana Baiul's performance," Barbara Wehr, 26, said as she skated at the Mall. "I think it deserved the gold medal."

At the Fort DuPont rink, the sentiments were the same.

"I didn't want Harding to win because what she did to Nancy Kerrigan was mean," said Veronica Walker, 11. Veronica said she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, not a skater. "They get in too much trouble."

Friends Nicca Lewis, 9, and Hera Ikonomi, 8, went to the rink together yesterday, but Friday night, they rooted for different Olympic contenders.

"I wanted Harding because she worked so hard to get to the Olympics," said Nicca, who has dreams of someday competing for a gold. "She even has asthma and she kept working so she could get there. I felt sorry for her."

Others had no sympathy, especially given Harding's emotional performance Friday after her lace broke. "I think she did it on purpose to make people feel sorry for her," said 13-year-old Mildred Dedekind, of Springfield. "I think she's always been doing that so she'll get attention."

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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