US settles down to view cold war confrontation

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The Independent Online
THE ATMOSPHERE at the Olympic skating rink near Lillehammer will be frostier than normal when Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding sweep around the ice together this week.

Following the US Olympic Committee's decision to suspend disciplinary proceedings against Harding, the skaters, will, from tomorrow, live in the same hostel and train simultaneously.

Their initial joint training session in Norway - possibly on Wednesday - will be their first meeting since a man hired by Harding's estranged husband attacked Kerrigan's knee with an iron bar in Detroit last month.

The US Olympic team tried yesterday to book the rivals into separate training sessions, but the International Skating Union (ISU) insisted that this was out of the question. 'They come as a team, they skate as a team,' said its vice-president, Lawrence Demmy.

The US skating federation then gave the women the option of training apart at another rink in Oslo. However, both insisted that they must practise on the ice on which they would compete for Olympic medals next week.

The skaters will stay on different floors in the US hostel in the Olympic village in Hamar. Kerrigan has already checked in and Harding is expected to arrive tomorrow.

Early yesterday, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) postponed a hearing into Harding's conduct, allowing her to skate in the Olympics. In return, Harding, 23, dropped a dollars 25m ( pounds 16.5m) law suit against the USOC. Harding's supporters celebrated yesterday as if she had won a medal. 'The Lord does work in strange ways. . . . I'm just really excited that Tonya's able to do this,' said her coach, Diane Rawlinson.

Kerrigan's coach, Evy Scotvold, said: 'It seems kind of contradictory when you see the opening ceremony and all they stand for.'

Kerrigan had cause for celebration. She signed a dollars 1m deal yesterday with ABC TV, Disney and a Hollywood producer to co-operate and appear in a skating special and television movie about the attack. The deal includes a book and a 'Nancy' doll.

The agreement between Harding and the USOC does not eliminate the possibility that officials might seek to discipline her after the Games. The committee's executive director, Harvey Schiller, said in a statement: 'We are appalled still by the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, which was an assault on the basic ideals of the Olympic movement and sportsmanship.'

Harding has denied advance knowledge of the attack but has admitted that she suppressed information about her husband's involvement.

Experts say neither skater is likely to win gold, although both have a chance of finishing in the medals. They face tough competition from France's Surya Bonaly, Oksana Baiul of Ukraine and China's Chen Lu.

But their first joint training session is certain to attract more media attention than any event in US skating history - ensuring that the Winter Olympics, a moderate draw in a sports-mad country, get prime-time billing.

Tommy Moe from Alaska won a surprise gold medal for the US in the men's downhill at Kvitfjell, beating the Norwegian favourite, Kjetil Andre Aamodt, by 0.04sec.

(Photographs omitted)

Serbs go it alone, page 8

Leading article, page 15

Olympics reports, page 32

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