Winter Olympics / Ice Skating: Harding swans in for rendezvous with Kerrigan

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The Independent Online
TONYA HARDING yesterday became the last American competitor to arrive at the Lillehammer Games when she flew in from her hometown of Portland, Oregon. 'She was last to arrive in Albertville, too,' a United States Olympic Committee official said. 'It's a kind of debutante entrance.'

'I feel great. I'm ready,' Harding said. Later she chatted briefly with her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. 'They did greet each other,' a USOC spokesman said. 'They were coming from opposite directions in the Village. They were both with groups of friends. They stopped and talked and went on their way. It broke the ice.'

Today the pair will practise on the ice together for the first time since Kerrigan was beaten about the knee with a metal bar during practice for the US championships in Detroit on 6 January.

Harding was implicated in the attack by her former husband, Jeff Gillooly, who has admitted being party to a conspiracy to harm Kerrigan, but the skater denies involvement.

Harding was cleared to skate only last weekend after the USOC reached a deal with her lawyers. She dropped a dollars 25m ( pounds 17m) lawsuit and will compete despite continuing investigations into her possible role in the attack on Kerrigan.

A television station in Portland alleged that Harding had failed two out of three lie detector tests in which she was asked about her involvement in the attack.

While Harding was en route to Norway, her mother, LaVona Faye Golden, collapsed in New York on the set of a television talk show after the taping of a programme to be aired tomorrow. She was taken to hospital where doctors yesterday described her condition as stable.

When Harding flew into Oslo, she was whisked off the tarmac by USOC officials and into a waiting car for the journey to Hamar, the ice skating venue. There the USOC secretary, Chuck Foster, accompanied her through registration, with others in the queue for Olympic credentials - including Norway's minister of agriculture - having to wait as Harding was processed.

Harding and Kerrigan will live in the same building in the Olympic Village - though on opposite ends of different floors. The women's figure skating competition begins next Wednesday.

Before she left Portland, Harding had told her supporters: 'Just keep believing in me and I'm going to go there and I'm going to win.' But, even in her absence, controversy dogged her in the US. The nationally broadcast television show, A Current Affair, broadcast a home video in which Harding playfully paraded in a wedding dress before peeling it down to her waist.

(Photographs omitted)