Bonaly kicks up controversy, draws warning for back flip

French figure skater Surya Bonaly was on her best behavior yesterday in practice, but then, she had little choice after receiving a rare warning from the referee of the women's competition at the Winter Olympics.

Ben Wright of the United States told Bonaly's mother before the 45-minute practice session at the Olympic Ice Hall that Surya would not be permitted to do her back flip, a crowd-pleasing maneuver that she includes as an exclamation point to her exhibition programs, although it is illegal in competition.


Surya's mother, Suzanne Bonaly, was furious about the reprimand, complaining that she sensed vibrations "of hate, not love" toward her 18-year-old daughter. But Surya got the message and did her workout without the back flip.

Figure skating officials such as Wright have suspected for the past two years that Bonaly, a former gymnast, uses the back flip in practices to intimidate other skaters.


"This is nothing new," Wright said. "There's a history here."

It became an issue during Wednesday's practice, when, only a few hours before the women's original program began, Bonaly did a back flip and landed very close to the favorite, Japan's Midori Ito.

Forced to interrupt the final rehearsal of her program, Ito never regained her composure. She tumbled 40 seconds into her performance, dumping a 3 1/2 -revolution Axel for a 3-revolution Lutz, and eventually finished fourth in the original program Wednesday. Bonaly took third place.

And the answer is . . .

Americans Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan are first and second heading into the final, free skate portion of the ladies' figure skating competition tonight; they're also roommates in the Olympic village.

Asked what they discussed when they returned to their room after Wednesday night's original program, Kerrigan said, "We talked about the silly questions we get asked by the media."

The scoop that wasn't

Canadian forward Eric Lindros, who hasn't wavered in his refusal to join the Quebec Nordiques, denied rumors that he would sign with the San Diego Gulls of the International Hockey League.


Although the Nordiques retain his draft rights for two years unless they trade him, Lindros could sign with the Gulls because they're not affiliated with an NHL team.

"Fat chance, bad scoop!!!" he said in a message sent on the Olympic computer network.

A Kodak moment

If you've ever wondered what those rugged hockey players look like under all that padding, you should have been in Courchevel on Wednesday.

The French hockey players stripped teammate Fabric L'henry naked, tied him to a chair and pushed him across the rink.

A few volunteer Olympic workers witnessed the scene and one of them managed to preserve the moment on film.


"It only lasted a few seconds," a spokesman for the Courchevel rink said. "Such things happen fairly often, but usually there's nobody to see it."

The quote

"Our 1964 team was a speed skater and a cross country skier. The skier finished last. Then we had three cross country skiers in 1968, and they all finished last. That was enough. We took a break of 20 years." Danish team leader Christian Holmstroep explaining that Danes, unlike other Scandinavians, have a weak tradition in winter sports.