Tonya Harding would admire the cunning of Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, the ice dancing pair who have admitted that they secretly—and successfully—interfered with efforts last winter to speed up the granting of U.S. citizenship to Gorsha Sur, the Soviet defector who is the duo's erstwhile friend and (with partner Renee Roca) rival. And Harding would likely appreciate the brass of Nicole Bobek, the freshly crowned women's national figure skating champion, whom suburban Detroit prosecutors charged with home invasion for allegedly walking out of another skater's house last November with money that did not belong to her. At the very least these two incidents make it clear that Harding is far from the only bête noire in a sport that looks more and more like boxing with makeup and sequins.
Last Thursday a county circuit judge dismissed the charge against Bobek—she has denied any wrongdoing—but prosecutors say they'll appeal that ruling. Meanwhile Punsalan and Swallow freely admit their role in delaying Sur's bid to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. As the 1994 Olympics approached, the pair wrote numerous letters to congressmen, asking them not to grant Sur preferential treatment when reviewing his application. After receiving no such treatment, Sur, who when paired with Roca has never finished below Punsalan and Swallow in five head-to-head meetings, had to watch his rivals go on to represent the U.S. in Lillehammer. "[Expedited naturalization] hadn't been done for any athletes in the past, Ivan Lendl, anyone," Punsalan said on ABC's Wide World of Sports, which broke the story last Saturday. "We wanted to use our rights as citizens, and to use government, democracy or whatever to our advantage."
Yeah, sure. After Swallow and Punsalan finished second, behind Sur and Roca, at the nationals in Providence on Feb. 12, Swallow wished his rivals luck at next month's world championships, adding his hope that the four skaters "will be one big, happy family again."
Certainly the woman who once said, "I'll hug Nancy, if she'll let me," would smile at such shamelessness.
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