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Kerrigan honored at Ice Theatre benefit gala

"I was never alone," says the two-time Olympic medalist

Paul Wylie; Moira North, the founder and artistic director of the Ice Theatre of New York; and Nancy Kerrigan pose together at the benefit gala.
Paul Wylie; Moira North, the founder and artistic director of the Ice Theatre of New York; and Nancy Kerrigan pose together at the benefit gala. (Lynn Rutherford)

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(10/29/2008) - At only 38, Nancy Kerrigan is a bit young for tributes.

"At first, I thought that," she said. "Then I realized, 'Hey, I'm not so young anymore.'"

Kerrigan's life in the sport, honored by the 2008 Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) Benefit Gala at Chelsea Piers this week, is crammed with achievement. A two-time Olympic medalist (1992 and '94), she won the U.S. title in '93, as well as two world medals ('91 and '92). As a professional, she's produced and starred in shows like Footloose on Ice and Halloween on Ice.

In 1999, she established the Nancy Kerrigan Foundation in honor of her mother Brenda to help non-profit organizations that support the vision impaired. She and husband Jerry Solomon, the prominent sports agent, have three children -- Matthew, 11; Brian, 3; and Nicole Elizabeth, 6 months. These days, she's the voice of icenetwork.com, commentating on national and international competitions.

"Walking in, seeing my dresses and my past on display here, it's strange. It's overwhelming," said Kerrigan, who was surrounded by her famous Vera Wang-designed costumes, as well as film footage of her career.

Prior to the dinner and award ceremony, ITNY -- the not-for-profit ensemble founded by Moira North in 1984 -- performed several numbers from their repertoire, including the 11-minute ice ballet Appalachia Waltz. Guest skaters Derrick Delmore and Surya Bonaly performed two solos each, with Bonaly taking the ice in borrowed skates.

"[The airline] lost my skates going to Russia, and coming back to New York they were still gone," Bonaly, who makes her home in Las Vegas, said. "I wore one pair of my skates for the programs and another in the finale."

Nevertheless, the three-time world silver medalist hit a double Axel and several of her signature back flips.

Kerrigan joined the ITNY ensemble in an excerpt of one of her favorite numbers from Footloose on Ice, the production she called "the most fun thing I've ever done."

ITNY also presented its Ice Angel Award to Dr. Joan Erdheim, President of the Psychoanalytic Society of the Training Institute for Mental Health, in recognition of her many years as a supporter and volunteer.

Kerrigan's longtime friend Paul Wylie, the '92 Olympic silver medalist, was on hand to pay tribute.

"We trained together in many different locations -- Skating Club of Boston, Colonial Club, Cape Cod," said Wylie, who shared coaches Evy and Mary Scotvold with Kerrigan. "Nancy is the kind of person who is a great training partner. She has an incredible personal drive, she's daring, she's fun and she perseveres."

Wylie recounted stories of their years together, recalling how he sang "Green Alligators and Long Neck Geese" with Kerrigan and her family in an Irish pub.

"She was a fellow traveler like no other," he said. "Nancy works hard and plays hard. Midnight rollerblading -- not scary for Nancy. Railroad bridge jumping into the Bass River -- not scary for Nancy. Skiing the day after her long program in Albertville -- she was all in for that as well. What you see is what you get from Nancy."

Kerrigan gave thanks to her coaches, training mates and especially her parents, noting they were home taking care of her children.

"I stood on the podiums alone, but I was never ever alone," she said. "I never got anywhere by myself ... Someone was always taking care of my skating and believed so much in me. I've been so lucky."