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In face of horrible tragedy, strength Kerrigan showed at Olympics may help again

January 25, 2010 |  5:57 pm

Kerrigan For Nancy Kerrigan, most of the year leading up to the 1994 U.S. championships was a competitive mess.

She utterly bombed at the 1993 world championships, finishing first in the short program but ninth in the free skate and fifth overall.

She fell on three jumps at a pro-am a month after worlds.

Her coach, Evy Scotvold, said the season had gone from "poor to terrible to horrific."

She rebounded five months later with a strong free skate at a pre-Olympic event in Norway but stumbled badly again at a pro-am a month before the nationals, at which results would help determine the two U.S. women on the 1994 Olympic team.

At that point, there was considerable doubt about Kerrigan's chances for a second Olympic medal -- she won bronze in 1992.  She admitted at the second pro-am to fighting serious confidence issues: "In the last few years, I was really scared to put my music on. I used to panic, and I would avoid doing run-throughs of my program.

"Now it doesn't matter what I do, because I'm putting everything into this. I'm proud of myself no matter what happens."

What happened was unbelievable: the attack at the U.S. championships on Kerrigan by associates of rival Tonya Harding, an attack that injured her knee badly enough both to knock her out of nationals and to put her Olympic participation in doubt, even though U.S. Figure Skating named her to the team.   When she overcame that physical and psychological blow to get to the 1994 Olympics in Norway, there still were huge questions about how it would affect her skating at the Winter Games.

In the midst of all that, in the media frenzy that followed the attack, a young woman long thought to be psychologically fragile in competition found the strength to skate what may have been the two finest performances of her career and wound up with the silver medal.

Sunday, the Kerrigan family was victim of a much worse attack, when her 70-year-old father, Daniel, died after an altercation at his home in Stoneham, Mass., with his son, Mark, who has been charged with assault.

One must pray the strength Kerrigan found in Norway can serve her again, for she will need all of it and more to deal with this tragedy.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: With her father, Daniel, behind her, Nancy Kerrigan speaks with the media before the 1994 Olympics. Credit: Susan Walsh / Associated Press