Tonya Harding says she foiled an abduction attempt early Wednesday by ramming her truck into a tree and running away from a bushy-haired man who tried to commandeer her vehicle.
The figure skater told police the man abducted her outside her home at knifepoint and forced her to drive to a rural area. She said she dodged him in a chase through the woods, then jumped back in her truck and took off.
Aside from a slap mark on her face, Harding was unharmed.
Harding, looking serious and shaken, arrived at the Clackamas County sheriff’s office Wednesday night to help develop a composite sketch of the suspect. She told reporters she was “scared.”
“I just hope that he gets caught,” she said. “There are so many women that go through this and now I know how they feel.”
Sheriff’s deputies, who have responded to Harding’s calls for help before, said they were taking the matter seriously.
“We’ll treat it at face value and investigate it just as we would investigate anybody, but at the same time, this type of report is unusual,” said sheriff’s spokesman Damon Coates. “I have no reason to think it’s false at this point, but it would be a poor investigation not to look at that.”
The abduction report came the same day the U.S. Figure Skating Championships began in Nashville, Tenn., and 10 days before Harding’s skating comeback - an exhibition program in Reno, Nev.
Harding has been banned for life from amateur competition for her role in the 1994 attack on her Olympic rival, Nancy Kerrigan, at the U.S. Championships. Harding pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the attack, in which Kerrigan was whacked on the knee. A judge placed Harding on three years’ probation, fined her $110,000 and ordered her to serve 500 hours of community service.
Harding could not comment on Wednesday’s incident because of exclusive media contracts related to her Feb. 22 performance at Reno’s Flamingo Hilton, said her agent, David Hans Schmidt.
Harding provided this account to police:
She had spent the evening at the Lost and Found Saloon. After arriving home in suburban Oak Grove, Harding walked out to her truck for some cigarettes and saw a man tinkering under the hood of another vehicle outside the house.
The man told her, “You’re going to take me where I need to go,” and forced her to go inside to get her keys. He waited for her in the doorway.
Then she drove for about 30 minutes south to the Mulino area as the man pressed a knife to her face. Then the man told her to stop on a dirt road.
Instead, she bumped the tree, grabbed the keys and ran. As the man ran behind her, she hid in some brush before darting back to her truck. Once back within cellphone range, she called her boyfriend, who called police at 1:51 a.m.
Deputies had Harding retrace the route, and found a fresh dent on a tree about the height of her truck’s bumper.
Over the years, police have responded to numerous calls from Harding.
While fighting to maintain her spot on the 1994 Olympic team, Harding told Beaverton police she was assaulted while walking through a park. In May 1995, she reported she was tailing a car driven by a man she said had been stalking her.
No one was arrested in either incident.
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