Winter Olympics / Ice Skating: Kerrigan's silver shadow

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The Independent Online
NANCY KERRIGAN was struggling to reconcile two emotions yesterday. Satisfaction at the way she had discovered grace under pressure in the free programme finale of the women's figure skating, just seven weeks after the attack which damaged her right knee. And disappointment that her effort was sufficient only for silver behind the inspired Ukrainian waif, Oksana Baiul.

Although she missed a triple flip at the start of her routine - it turned into a double flip - Kerrigan held her nerve thereafter in a way which she has never done at any previous major championship. 'For me, in my heart and my mind, I did win the gold,' she said. But it was not quite the Hollywood conclusion for which a nation's television watchers had fervently hoped.

Initial US viewing figures from local surveys indicated a 44.4 point rating for the transmissions of the final efforts of Kerrigan and the skater who faces charges for aiding and abetting her attack, Tonya Harding, who finished eighth after a farcical false start due to a broken lace. If that rating figure holds up - each rating point corresponds to 942,000 households - it will create a new record. 'We are on target for the most watched sports event in the United States,' said a triumphant spokeswoman for CBS, which paid pounds 202m for exclusive US coverage of the Games and has not regretted a single dime. Kerrigan is undecided about whether to skate on competitively. Whatever she decides, she has the imminent consolation of a deal signed with ABC and Disney worth at least pounds 7m. The deal involves rights for a made-for-TV film and a book - the hasty publication Dreams of Gold will presumably become Dreams of Silver. It also involves appearances at Disney World and Disneyland; expect some confusion with Snow White. And if confirmation were needed that the 24-year-old welder's daughter from Stoneham, Massachusetts, is about to become an enduring part of American life, it has come in the announcement that Barbie are bringing out a new doll. Yes. Of course it is.

Among the inducements being offered by ticket touts on Friday night were lapel badges in the Lillehammer Olympics pictogram style, depicting two female skaters with boxing gloves on. The message reads: 'Figure boxing - Kerrigan vs Harding'. It was a nice idea. But in truth, that particular bout had already been decided by a technical knock-out.

Harding's abortive appearance on the ice, and the decision to allow her to skate again at the end of her group, temporarily reduced the Olympics to farce. Sadly for Wilf O'Reilly, the same latitude was not granted following his own footwear problem in Thursday's heats of the 500 metres short-track speed skating.

His appeal to be reinstated after he was obliged to skate with a badly damaged blade was officially turned down yesterday by the event referee, Gunter Langer of Italy. It was a predictable end to a predictably trying Games for O'Reilly, whose participation was put temporarily in doubt by the accident just before Christmas which left his girlfriend, Monique Velzeboer, the Dutch No1 speed skater, paralysed.

For all his buoyant assertions that he would be able to skate with a clear mind and redress the disappointment he suffered at the last Games - he fell in both the individual event and the relay - you had to wonder. As he sat miserably on Thursday night, his ruined skate in his hand, his predicament seemed well expressed by those lines from Hamlet: 'There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we may.'

As things turned out, those words expressed the experience here of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, whose hastily revamped, rapturously acclaimed ice dance routine failed to hit the spot with the judges. At yesterday's farewell gala, they skated the Bolero routine which won them the Olympic title 10 years ago in Sarajevo, a routine which they dedicated to those now suffering in that city. Nine spectators holding scorecards promptly stood up to award the British pair perfect sixes. This week, they have had to be satisfied with the people's vote.

(Photograph omitted)

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