ALBERTVILLE, France -- Tonya Harding finally arrived at the Olympics yesterday, cutting something of a mysterious figure.
She said she thought it was "just best" for her to spend the first 10 days of the Games at home, in Portland, Ore.
She said she was using a new combination of new and old skating boots, but wouldn't reveal the details. "[The boots] are part of my strategy for skating a perfect routine," she said.
She said she had lost some weight in the past month, but wouldn't say how much or why. "My weight is my personal business," she said, allowing that, "eating three square meals a day by my mother-in-law put weight on me." About the only issue on which she was definite was the hottest rumor circulating through the skating community: "No," she said, "I am not pregnant."
Harding, 21, finished third behind Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month in Orlando, Fla. The 1991 U.S. champion, she enters the Olympics as a dark-horse contender behind Yamaguchi and Japan's Midori Ito. She is scheduled to skate in the original phase of the competition tomorrow.
"I feel like the underdog, and that's fine," Harding said. "It feels like it did before the 1991 nationals, when I won."
Harding arrived in Albertville later than any other athlete in the American delegation.
"I could get much more ice time at home than here," she said. "Plus, I was getting an award as Oregon Athlete of the Year, although I wound up not making the banquet. But, mainly, I was getting four practice sessions a day."
She said she did not regret missing the international atmosphere of the Olympics.
"I heard the opening ceremonies were nice, but what I did was in my best interests," she said. "Peggy Fleming did it this way when she won her gold [in Grenoble in 1968], which was the last time the Olympics were in France.
"I did watch some [of the Games] at home. But then I missed
some because they cut off my cable."
Harding and Ito are the only female skaters who use the triple-Axel jump in combination. Harding missed her triple Axel in the nationals last month, but she had a pulled tendon in her foot.
"I still have a little bit of pain, but it's basically OK," she said. "The Axel is fine now. I feel real good about the way things are shaping up."