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Harding could seek Olympic eligibility in another country, agent says

January 24, 1997

PHOENIX (AP) _ Tonya Harding might seek to skate for another country in the Olympics if U.S. figure skating officials fail to reinstate her eligibility, her agent said today.

``It would be a distinct possibility,″ David Hans Schmidt, Harding’s Phoenix-based representative, said.

Schmidt said he would decide in the next few weeks whether to ask the U.S. Figure Skating Association to rescind the lifetime ban it imposed on Harding for her part in the conspiracy to cover up the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 national championships.

If the USFSA refused, Schmidt said, he would be ready to seek Olympic eligibility in another country to allow Harding to skate in the Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan, next year.

``Maybe she could skate for Bolivia,″ Schmidt said.

The agent spoke as two Scandinavian newspapers reported Harding’s interest in possibly skating again for some country other than the United States.

The Dagbladet newspaper in Oslo reported Thursday that Schmidt faxed a letter to Norwegian state broadcasting saying Harding would be ``happy to represent the friendly Norwegians at the next Olympics ... ″

``After all, Tonya (with her blond hair) looks like you people,″ the fax said.

Today, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said it had contacted Schmidt to ask if Harding might seek to compete for Norway’s neighbor.

``Gladly! Any country that wants to can think about accepting Tonya,″ the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Schmidt confirmed sending the fax to Norway, and said the subject first surfaced in jest during interviews with Norwegian TV last year.

``I thought, `Hey, why not?′ ″ the agent said. ``It’s not unprecedented. We are going to decide very soon whether we will seek reinstatement and what to do if that is unsuccessful.″

Any chance of Harding skating under the Norwegian flag was quickly dismissed by that country’s sports officials.

``I think she has chosen the wrong country if she wants to make a comeback,″ Norwegian figure skating association secretary general Arild Hjelde told The Associated Press.

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