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HARDING GRAPPLES WITH PUBLIC LIFE AFTER SKATING

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During the noisy mayhem that was billed as a "news conference" featuring professional wrestlers and Tonya Harding, one of the performers pointed his finger at the notorious figure skater.

"She's bad news. She's bad news," he shouted.Welcome to the world of professional wrestling, Tonya.

Harding has a contract to attend a Wednesday night wrestling extravaganza in nearby Vancouver, Wash., where she will be "celebrity manager" for Art Barr, who wrestles under the name "American Love Machine."

Harding has kept a low profile since she pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the Jan. 6 attack on Nancy Kerrigan. But she's hired an agent and is exploring show business opportunities.

Her first appearance was Monday night at Portland International Airport, where she was to "greet" a group of Mexican wrestlers who will compete against U.S. wrestlers in Vancouver. The event quickly degenerated into a show of shouting, shoving and, finally, racism.

Harding was mostly a spectator.

However, she did carry a glass of water into the room, an important prop, as things turned out. A short time later, the American Love Machine grabbed the glass and tossed the water into the face of an enemy wrestler called Konnan.

Harding's agent, Merrill Eichenberger, had indicated she would be able to answer a few questions, so all the local television stations showed up. But she never gave them a chance.

She walked in with about a dozen wrestlers, including a midget wearing an orange wig and a green mask, a man in a red-white-and-blue costume and another little guy with a helmet-like mask covered with question marks.

"Hello everyone," she said. "It's just exciting to be here and be part of this group of wonderful people, wonderful wrestlers and great athletes. I just want to thank them."

Then Barr took over with a brashness that's typical of his "sport."

"Right now I'm looked upon in the wrestling world as one of the biggest international stars," he assured the press, who by then were getting the idea of what this was all about.

Between boasts and anti-Mexican ranting, Barr praised Harding.

"She's 100 pounds and probably has more guts than any of us here," he said.

After the show, Harding slipped out a back door while Eichenberger assured reporters she was no racist.

"This is just a fun thing. She's just having fun with this. Why shouldn't she have some fun?" he said.

A Japanese wrestling promoter has made Harding a lucrative offer to wrestle in that country. Eichenberger said there had been other "big money" wrestling offers in the United States.

But she wants to skate instead, he said, even though she's barred from amateur competition and many professional events because she has resigned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association as part of her plea bargain.

Next week, the USFSA conducts a disciplinary hearing in Colorado Springs, Colo. Among other things, the association may strip her of her national title and ban her from the organization for life.