Drama Mostly Mellow 2/18/94


Personal Assistant
Drama Mostly Mellow
In Nancy-Tonya Follies
February 18, 1994|By TONY KORNHEISER The Washington Post
HAMAR, Norway — So there I was jammed in like a herring with 700 other writers and photographers on a two-tiered wooden platform meant for no more than 100. So close that in some countries we would have been considered married, waiting three full hours for Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan to actually BE ON THE SAME ICE TOGETHER, to report to the rest of Western Civilization (which waited breathlessly at their supermarket checkout lines) whether they spoke to each other, or snarled at each other, or pistol-whipped each other.

Well, breathe easy, America.

No, Tonya didn't say to Nancy, "How's the knee, kiddo?''

And Nancy didn't say to Tonya, "I caught you on TV. What's the name of that show, America's Trashiest Home Videos?''

They skated together twice on Thursday. They circled each other, and occasionally eyed each other furtively. But they didn't say a word to each other.

When their first skating session was over they didn't say a word to anyone. Nancy flashed her involuntary deer-in-the-headlights smile, and skipped out so fast she almost came out of her skates.

Tonya was asked three questions: "How do you feel?" "How are you skating?" "How was practice?" To each one she grinned theatrically and gave us a thumbs-up sign.

Tonya's not giving away any answers to the press for free Thursday - not when Inside Edition is paying. How silly of us to not throw down kroners with each question.

In light of the recent video on A Current Affair, the biggest surprise of the day was that Tonya left the rink with all her clothes on.

Do you think it was mere coincidence Kerrigan skated in her Snow White outfit? White sweater, white skirt, white gloves, white hair ribbon. It's pretty obvious where Kerrigan's going in this, image-wise.

And don't think it was just the press watching. The athletes' stands were packed too. They didn't want to miss this. And there were some judges as well. Tonya's gotten used to judges. Lately she calls everybody "Your Honor."

USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller, who has blasted the media for blowing this story way out of proportion, was among those pushing his way into the practice rink to be present at this non-story. Paramedics were rink-side; a nice touch, for these days you never know when you're going to need a paramedic in ladies figure skating.

Hamar is the perfect name for this, isn't it? Hamar, Lillehammer, Tonyahammer.

Bang, bang Tonya's silver hammer goes down on her head!

Okay, you want details?

Trust me, not the in-house Olympic newswire, which reported - and I am quoting here - "Both Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding turned up for practice at Hamar this morning. The training event was held in top secrecy."The Gulf War was held in more secrecy.

Kerrigan skated out on time, at 1:25. She skated languidly around the rink, occasionally going over to her coach Evy Scotvold, and blowing her nose. There were two other skaters out there with her - Lily Lee and a woman from Bulgaria - who could've been Sacco and Vanzetti and nobody would have noticed.

At 1:33, the battle was joined, as Tonya came onto the ice (shockingly unaccompanied by New Best Friend Connie Chung), wearing her customary trailer-park, bare-armed floral get-up over black tights. Tonya had her hair in a French braid. Unlike at a WWF match, they didn't check her hair for concealed weapons.

They were on the ice together for 28 minutes. Most of that time they spent deliberately turning their backs on each other for gamesmanship. Only once did they get close enough for the photographers to place them in the same frame - the writers collectively gasped, and the sudden clicking of hundreds of shutters sounded like a swarm of locusts.

As the day wore on Nancy grew more mirthful and confident - surprisingly so. Some of us figured Nancy would be so rattled by Tonya's presence that she'd cower in a corner, and her coaches would have to push her onto the ice. We were wrong. By the end of the day her smile was real; she was glowing. If this was a fight - and isn't it? - I'd score the first round for Kerrigan.