Tonya Harding: 'I Know The People Who Love Me'

Surrounded by lawyers, freshly made up and clearly weary of the media spiral, Tonya Harding sat for an interview last week with NEWSWEEK'S Patricia King. They discussed her medal hopes, training and the pressure of the scandal. Excerpts:

You've said you know you're going to get a gold medal. Are you that confident or are you just psyching yourself up?
I don't know that I'm going to win a gold medal. I think any medal at this time would be great . . . if I get a silver or a bronze medal that'll mean that I didn't train hard enough.

Do you feel you have to hit a triple axel to win?
Well, I'm going to land a triple axel. That'll put the icing on it.

Are you worried about the judges? Do you think you're going to get a fair shake?
I'm not in a position to answer that. They're judges, and they have their own opinions.

When you skate, is it an inward performance or do you get energy from the crowd?
Well, when I get on the ice I tend to tree it, which means that I leave my problems behind before I go on the ice.

Tree it?
It's called treeing. It means you touch something and you leave your problems right there and you can pick them up when you go off.

What do you touch?
It depends. When I go to the rink to practice it's the door. At a competition it could be a door, it could be the wall of the rink. It could be anything.

How long have you been doing that?
Since last year in the summertime.

What is the toll the furor over the Kerrigan assault case has had on you?
It's a lot of pressure, but I work better under pressure.

Can you talk about the pressure you're under?
I have a lot of people who are supporting me. My biggest supporter right now is Stephanie Quintero. She holds my chin up. [Harding is staying with Quintero and her husband.]

Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist?
Yes I have.

Are you working with one now?
No. Unfortunately my psychologist died.

Jeff Gillooly was your biggest supporter. Now that he has turned on you, who will support you at the Olympics?
I'm going to have the family and the friends that really love me, truly love me and I know who they are and one of the people is Stephanie.

Did you find out a lot about who your real friends are during recent weeks?
The only thing that I can say is that I know who my real friends are and I know who my family is and I know the people who love me.

Some people said you arrived too late at Albertville. Are you going to go to Norway early enough to recover from jet lag and get yourself acclimated?
I don't mind going in later. I have never had jet lag in my life and I don't plan on having it. And so I plan to just go there and do what I've trained for.

In the last five weeks you haven't had as much time to train. Does that worry you?
I mean it's only been three weeks that I haven't had as much training. Before Nationals I had plenty of training. That took me through the whole entire year.

If you win the gold medal, do you think it's going to be tainted?
I can't answer that.

It must bother you.
I don't even think about it.

Have you considered withdrawing from the Olympics?
No. Absolutely no.

What are you going to do after the Olympics?
I hope to do maybe some endorsements or teach skating and maybe have a family.