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1994: Mystery assailant attacks top US skater

An unknown man brandishing a metal crowbar has attacked American figure-skater Nancy Kerrigan.

The 24-year-old skater was forced to withdraw from the US national championships in Detroit after the incident, which left her with severe bruising to her right knee.

The competition was expected to decide who would represent the United States in the forthcoming winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, next month. But that now hangs in the balance.

Normally the top two finishers in these championships would qualify for the Olympics, although the US Figure Skating Association does have some discretion in the electoral process.

'Screaming and sobbing'

The attack happened as Ms Kerrigan, who won a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics, was leaving the ice after a practice session at Cobo Hall, Detroit.

An eye-witness said: "Before she could say anything, a guy ran by, crouched down, whacked her on the knee and kept running.

"Nancy just dropped and started screaming and sobbing."

Ms Kerrigan's agent, Jerry Solomon said: "Nancy sustained quite a blow, physically and mentally.

"This could really affect her mental approach which is so important on the ice."

Police investigating the incident have been told by witnesses that the attacker had been video-taping Ms Kerrigan as she skated before he struck.

It is understood that he was wearing official credentials around his neck but detectives still have no identification.

The attack comes just eight months after tennis player Monica Seles was stabbed by a spectator with a kitchen knife as she played on a court in Hamburg, Germany.

In Context
Tonya Harding, 23, went on to win the US Ladies Figure Skating Championship finals in Detroit. But within days police began investigating allegations that the attack had been arranged and carried out by associates of Ms Harding.

Ms Harding's former husband, Jeff Gillooly, her bodyguard, Shawn Eckardt, and two other men were charged with conspiracy but the skater herself denied any involvement in the plot.

Eventually she admitted trying to cover up the Kerrigan attack and was fined $100,000 and given three years' probation.

Both skaters were selected to represent the US team in the Lillehammer Olympics. Ms Kerrigan went on to win a silver medal but Ms Harding performed poorly.

In June of the same year the US Figure Skating Association stripped Tonya Harding of her 1994 national championship title and banned her from the organisation for life, which meant she could not compete in any future Olympic Games.

In October 1999 she returned to the ice, coming second at an ESPN event in Huntington, West Virginia, for professional skaters ineligible for Olympic competition.


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