HAMAR, Norway - In the first seconds after her freestyle routine, Nancy Kerrigan turned to her coach, Evy Scotvold, laughed and clapped her hands together in self-congratulations.
At center ice, the standing ovation tumbled to her like a warm hug. Kerrigan enjoyed the moment, appreciated the applause and anticipated the gold medal that would follow.
Backstage, moments later, in the area figure skaters accurately call the kiss-and-cry room, Scotvold was dancing like Tommy Lasorda after a World Series win.
Little did he know a crime was about to be committed.
Nancy Kerrigan was robbed yesterday. She had the gold medal taken from her by five judges just as surely as if it had been snatched from her neck on the Storgata in downtown Lillehammer.
Oksana Baiul of Ukraine won the women's figure-skating gold in an election as crooked as anything that ever happened in Chicago. Apparently Mayor Richard Daley is alive and well and posing as a German figure skating judge.
"For me, in my mind and in my heart I did (win the gold)," said Kerrigan, who settled for silver. "For my peace of mind, I did get it. And I had fun."
The old world order, not Baiul, beat Kerrigan. Five judges voted Baiul first. That gang of five was from former or present Communist countries - Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine and China. German judge Jan Hoffman is a former East German skater.
It doesn't take Oliver Stone to figure out this conspiracy.
The spirit of the Cold War was alive yesterday in Hamar. The four judges who chose Kerrigan first were from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Japan. The Canadian and British judges scored Baiul third.
Kerrigan made one mistake, turning a triple flip into a double at the beginning of her freestyle program. But she planned six triples and made the other five.
"I did a double flip that was supposed to be a triple, but it was a really good double flip," Kerrigan said. "To be able to concentrate and do all my other triples so strong, to skate so clean and jump so high and strong, it shows how strong I am and how strong-minded I am. I think I skated great."
Baiul, skating with three stitches in her right leg after a crash in practice the day before, looked ragged. She double-footed one landing and improvised a combination jump at the end of her routine that she was supposed to have done earlier.
"It shouldn't have been that close," said 1992 silver medalist Paul Wylie, a close friend of Kerrigan's. "Nancy Kerrigan should have won.
"But the judges want to be ingratiated. They want you to smile at them, vamp them like Oksana does."
What kind of sport is it that puts more importance on vamping that jumping? What kind of sport allows judging as corrupt as this?
Five judges did what Jeff Gillooly couldn't do. They took the gold away from Kerrigan. It was the figure-skating equivalent of a club to the knee cap.
Kerrigan skated just before Baiul, so the judges knew exactly what Baiul needed to win. Five of them gave her just enough.
"You have to deal with what you get," Kerrigan said. "I did it. I dealt with it fine."
She was angry. It was the worst decision since boxer Julio Caesar Chavez got an unwarranted draw with Pernell Whitaker.
Figure skating makes boxing look as wholesome as church bingo. The only thing missing yesterday was Don King telling us he would promote the Baiul-Kerrigan rematch at Caesar's in June on pay-per-view.
The judges have turned figure skating into vaudeville. Baiul didn't skate better than Kerrigan, she flirted better. Imagine what Madonna would do with the right mixture of skates and sequins.
And what other sport would give an athlete the kind of second chance Tonya Harding got after she began her routine looking like Chevy Chase in an old "Saturday Night Live" skit?
Harding, who was having trouble with a shoelace during warmups, botched her opening triple lutz and seconds later started crying. She stopped her program, skated to referee Britta Lundgren and showed her the broken lace.
As boos rumbled through the arena, the sniffling Harding was granted an opportunity to find a new shoelace and restart her routine.
Imagine Fred Couples asking for a mulligan after hooking a drive at the U.S. Open. Or Thurman Thomas crying to an official after his Super Bowl fumble, saying his helmet didn't feel right.
Only in figure skating would Harding's first mistake be erased. Still, she finished eighth. Even in this sport you don't get a third chance.
What a bizarre event!
And just when you think figure skating can't disgrace itself anymore, five toe-loopy judges pull a stunt like this.
Nancy Kerrigan was robbed. Oksana Baiul vamped her way to gold. The Cold War raged on at the Winter Olympics.
Why does every night of figure skating feel like Halloween?