FOR A SKATER WHOSE APPEAL—and market value—are based partly on her image as a wronged innocent, Nancy Kerrigan has seen nothing but trouble since winning a silver medal at last winter's Olympics. In February, just six weeks after Tonya Harding and her friends made the skating star an object of sympathy, Kerrigan, 25, tarnished her credentials as martyr by pouting after losing the gold to 17-year-old Oksana Baiul. She then jetted out of Lillehammer, Norway, before the Olympic closing ceremonies en route to a lucrative appointment at Walt Disney World. Once there, she proceeded to snub Mickey Mouse, of all people; by spring, colleagues were whispering that she was temperamental, and that her relationship with manager Jerry Solomon, 40, was keeping her mind off double salchows.

Then things got worse. In divorce papers only recently publicized, Solomon's wife, Kathy, 36, alleged that he had committed adultery and promised to reveal his partner "at a hearing." Perhaps feeling the pressure, Kerrigan botched her opening jump on Nov. 9 in CBS's heavily hyped Ice Wars: USA vs. the World.

While Kerrigan has remained tight-lipped, Solomon, a ProServ marketing president who has represented her since March 1992, has taken on the task of spin control. Although he conceded last week that the two have had a "personal relationship" since July, he insists his client is no home wrecker. "My situation with Nancy is completely separate from my situation with Kathy," says Solomon, who adds that he has been separated from his wife since October 1993.

Kerrigan's mother, Brenda, also rushed to her daughter's defense. "Is Nancy seeing Jerry? Yes. Was she seeing Jerry while he was still with his wife? Absolutely not. She would not ruin someone's family." Brenda admits that the romantic turn of events is "surprising, shocking," but adds, "We all like Jerry. My daughter is happy, and he is happy."

Whatever her feelings may be, Kathy Solomon is keeping them to herself. A onetime ProServ tournaments manager, she lives in Potomac, Md., with her son Clayton, 5. During their marriage, she seldom traveled with her peripatetic husband. "Kathy was as supportive as she could be," says Solomon. "She had to put up with a lot of situations related to this business. The issues between us are personal."

Skating insiders, though, suspect that Kerrigan and Solomon may have been involved for longer than they admit. According to one, the Jan. 6 knee-bashing attack by Tonya Harding's bodyguard set the stage for a sort of "wartime romance." Says the source: "At the Olympics, everybody thought something was going on—[Kerrigan and Solomon] were inseparable. They were spotted all over town having dinner, and they weren't being subtle about it."

Adds Mary Scotvold, wife of Nancy's coach Evy: "I called Jerry and said, 'God, Jerry, what are you doing? This doesn't look good, you being together all the time.' I was very upset because I thought it might hurt her."

Solomon says the rumors didn't trouble him. "I had a job to do," he says, "and that was keeping as much pressure off Nancy as possible. That required our spending a lot of time together." After the Olympics, he says, the two often met to discuss business, including more than $3 million worth of deals with companies including Revlon, Reebok and Campbell's soups. By the summer, he adds, they had begun a romance that was "very trusting and supportive."

In October, when the two flew to Bermuda for a brief holiday, the affair was all but public. Says Scotvold: "Going to Bermuda may not have been the right thing, but I think he's truly in love with her, and she's truly in love with him."

Ironically, while the press was busy branding Nancy "the other woman" last week, the Solomons reached a settlement that rendered Kathy's charges of adultery and desertion moot. "It's time to get on with my life," she says.

And for Kerrigan to get on with hers. She is currently prepping for a 14-city U.S. tour this week and shopping for a house near her parents' home in Stoneham, Mass. Solomon, who lives in Bethesda, Md., denies rumors that he plans to move in. "We are still going through stages," he says. "I'm not sure where it will end up. People are jumping to all kinds of conclusions—it's unfair."

MICHELLE GREEN
S. AVERY BROWN and TOM DUFFY in Boston, MARY ESSELMAN in Washington and LORENZO BENET in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • S. Avery Brown,
  • Tom Duffy,
  • Mary Esselman,
  • Lorenzo Benet.