Ukraine's Gold-Medal Figure Skater Visits the White House With AM-Clinton, Bjt
LAWRENCE L. KNUTSON
Mar. 04, 1994
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ukraine's pride, figure skater Oksana Baiul, brought the gleam of her Olympic gold to the White House on Friday. She captivated President Clinton and nearly outshone her country's president, Leonid Kravchuk.
''She has this ageless look in her face,'' Clinton said of the 16-year-old skater. ''I think it's kind of neat that he asked her to come.''
Baiul and Olympic teammate and fellow figure skater Viktor Petrenko followed Kravchuk through his official agenda and watched from seats in the audience as the two presidents fielded questions at a news conference in the East Room.
''I had a great talk with them; we had a real nice visit,'' Clinton said as he chatted with reporters in the Grand Foyer of the White House after he had escorted Kravchuk from the room.
Clinton said he doesn't think Americans bear a grudge over the fact that the Ukrainian skater edged out American Nancy Kerrigan for the Olympic gold medal. Kerrigan won the silver medal.
He said he has invited the entire U.S. Olympic team to visit the White House later this month, including Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.
Clinton said he had sat ''riveted'' as he watched the American and Ukrainian skaters on television during the Olympics.
''It was a remarkable thing; just astonishing,'' he said.
Clinton said that if the judges had all been Americans, they would have voted for Kerrigan out of national pride.
''I thought it was neat that it was such a close thing,'' he said.
''I think it was the pride of Nancy Kerrigan coming back from her injuries and skating so brilliantly and doing so well,'' he said.
Wearing a dark velvet ribbon in her pulled-back blonde hair, Baiul sat with Petrenko in the East Room, surrounded by male Ukrainian diplomats and officials in dark blue suits. She wore a dark velvet jacket over a dress decorated with sequins.
One shin bore a bandage covering the stitches she needed after a skating accident at the Lillehammer, Norway, Olympics.
She and Petrenko stood and smiled as the president called attention to their presence and said Kravchuk was taking them to all the meetings on his Washington agenda.