Harding's Olympic skate
fUl fx mmim Ripped boot lace frustrates skater By STEVE WILSTEIN Associated Press HAMAR, Norway For more than half an hour after Tonya Harding's nightmarish Olympic finale, she sat convulsed in an asthmatic coughing fit and vomiting, her body shaking and her face wan. Drawing deep drafts on an inhaler attached to an electric, high-flow high-flow high-flow compressor Friday night, she looked up at a television television and saw Nancy Kerrigan's exuberant smile during a near flawless performance that would earn her a silver medal behind Ukraine's Oksana Baiul. "Oh, God, I can't breathe," Harding gasped between puffs on the inhaler as a team doctor .attended her. "God, God, God. I : can't breathe." It had been seven weeks since Kerrigan was clubbed at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Championships in Detroit, an assault that led to a guilty plea for racketeering racketeering by Harding's ex-husband, ex-husband, ex-husband, and the arrest of her bodyguard and two others. Harding herself is still under investigation by a grand jury in Portland, Ore. Now, here was Harding wracked by an asthmatic attack, coming off another bizarre incident incident on the ice, and there on the screen in the room behind the "Kiss and Cry" area was Kerrigan skating in all her glory. When Kerrigan finished, Harding looked sadly toward her coach, Diane Rawlinson. "You were great," Rawlinson told her, trying to cheer her up. Harding replied weakly: "Maybe I'll come back in four years and try again." There was no conviction in her voice, but rather a realization that there isn't much likelihood of that. Harding finished eighth, and she doesn't appear to have much future in figure skating. If this was her last performance, it was a bizarre way to go out. Her night started with one more dramatic moment as everyone stared at two blue curtains, waiting for Harding to come out and skate. She had two minutes to walk through and step on the ice. Eyes shifted from the curtains, to the clock on the scoreboard, and back to the curtains. It may have been the longest two minutes in Olympic history. At first, the crowd was silent, as if all 6,000 fans were holding their breath, then the rhythmic clapping began. Still no Harding. Harding. , Behind the curtains, there was panic among Harding, her coach and U.S. officials. Harding had cut the lace on her right boot in her warmup, and as she tightened the lace it broke. They got another lace, but it was too small. Harding used it anyway, skipping three holes on the outside outside of her boot and two on the inside. She pulled the lace to- to- Si- Si- f iv.::.::'- iv.::.::'- !. 'Si f vs. I ; . - VJ Peopie Use By The Associated Press Tonya Harding shows her skate to judges after interrupting her free skating program Friday. ward her ankle on one side and over the top on the other, trying to tighten it the best she could. Finally, with time running out, she hustled through the curtain and onto the ice with just six seconds to spare. Harding pumped her fists and skated straight to the center of the rink to begin her long program. program. But her boot was still too loose, and her attempt at a triple lutz at the start failed. She made only a single rotation, then she stopped skating just 45 seconds into her 4-minute 4-minute 4-minute program, program, covered her face and started crying. "I knew that if I was going to skate like that it was going to be very risky," Harding said when she could finally talk after the asthmatic attack. "I could break my ankle really easily. As soon as I did the triple lutz, I went to try it and there was nothing there. There was no support whatsoever. I just knew that I had to stop." Harding skated over to the referee, lifted her boot with the golden blade and the loose laces up on top of the board and pleaded with them to allow her to skate again. The referee gave her another two minutes to fix it, and she left the ice shouting to her coach, "Retie it right here." For Harding it was just one more miserable moment in a sad Olympic experience. Harding tried to tie another Eiece of lace onto the torn one, ut that wouldn't work. As she grew desperate, the referee decided to let her skate at the end of her group, after four more skaters. That announcement announcement was met by boos from the crowd, relief from Harding. When she went back out, after taking one last blast from her inhaler, she leaned against the boards and closed her eyes for a moment in concentration. "I treed it and left my prob lems behind and did the best that I could," she said, talking about how she visualizes hanging hanging all her worries on a tree. As the loud, wailing music from "Jurassic Park" began, Harding posed with her left hand up, then skated to one end of the rink and nailed her first tough jump, a triple lutz. It seemed, in that moment, as though she had succeeded in blocking out everything, coming through with the performance she needed to rise significantly from the 10th place she found herself in after the short pro- pro- gram. But she quickly failed on the one jump that distinguishes her from all her rivals, the triple axel that only Midori Ito among women has landed in an Olympics. Olympics. After doing it more than a , dozen times in practices over the past week, Harding popped that jump and managed only a single axel. She cleanly skated through all but one of her other jumps and finished in the center of the ice, hands up to the crowd and loud applause raining down on her. .! think I did quite well under all the circumstances because I think I was ready to have a nervous breakdown before I went out the first time," Harding Harding said. As she looked around at the crowd for perhaps the last time in an Olympics, Harding said she was happy and thinking that "at least one of my dreams came true, that I was able to be here." These Olympics couldn't have been much more disastrous for Harding. Every word and move she made was watched by the media and other athletes. She came here boasting that she would win the gold and kick Kerrigan's butt. Now, she'll leave without a medal and go home to face a criminal investigation. investigation. "A lot of people misconceived what I said (about Kerrigan)," Harding said. "What I mean by that ... that's my competitive spirit. It's not in a mean way. That's a competitive thing that I have. I'm really glad Nancy skated great." Harding expressed no regrets at all about making the trip to Norway. "It's definitely worth ... being at the Olympics," she said. "If I had it all over to do again, I would definitely try something different, I guess. Maybe not, who knows." Asked whether the whole experience experience was traumatic, she replied, replied, "I don't think it's really sunk in yet what's going on." She wouldn't answer several questions about the pressure from the investigation into the attack on Kerrigan, nor would she say whether she's apprehensive, apprehensive, fearful or confident about going home to face the prosecutor. Harding had insisted all along that she skated best under pressure, but she couldn't explain explain why she failed to do that here. "I react best under pressure, but it all depends on the kind of pressure you put yourself under or other people put you under," she said. This on golf ready on Ask . i.mi.i .. . 'vis- : - " -:'V'.';s:" -:'V'.';s:"