ANOTHER FALLEN STAR

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The U.S. Olympic Committee apparently is praying hard that figure skater Tonya Harding withdraws from the Winter Olympics. She's won a spot on the U.S. team, but persons close to her have been charged with the contemptible attack on her chief U.S. rival, Nancy Kerrigan.

As this is written, new evidence suggests Ms. Harding may have had a hand in plotting the attack. Some U.S. officials expressed the hope that she bows out so they won't have to deal with the thorny issue of whether she befouled the Olympic code. Others say the fortune Ms. Harding has admitted seeking will be denied her regardless of any future success on the ice.

On many levels, this is a tragic story. Ms. Harding, after all, is quite a skater. Which leads us to wonder: What if the skate was on the other foot? What if some dimwits had attacked Ms. Harding on behalf of Nancy Kerrigan? Would the willowy Ms. Kerrigan's blue-chip sponsors run and hide? Or spin the story to isolate her from the ugly incident?

More to the point, how might Ms. Harding's career have gone absent the Kerrigan attack? Given the adversities of her childhood, and if she learned to better control her all-too-evident ambition to cash in big-time on her skating skills, an Olympics triumph could easily have positioned her as the plucky girl who overcame many obstacles and skated to glory.

That would have lured a few big-bucks advertisers, and for Ms. Harding life would have been different. Given present realities, she joins Michael Jackson as a "star" without an endorsement future.M

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