Facing the Music

UPDATED 02/10/1997 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/10/1997 at 01:00 AM EST

OKSANA BAIUL ENTERED SUPERIOR court in West Hartford, Conn., on Jan. 27 looking as apprehensive as one might expect after the accident 15 days earlier in which she skidded off a road at an estimated 97 mph and crashed near her Simsbury, Conn., home. The figure skater, whose fairy-tale story has lately taken a worrisome turn, was applying to enter an alcohol education program, in the hope that a drunk-driving charge would eventually be dropped. In her first public appearance since the crash, Baiul, 19, seemed suitably subdued—until she passed the throng of reporters. Then she winked. According to attorney Daniel Blume, "Oksana had her bell rung a little, but she's fine. She's happy we're moving toward getting this behind her."

By many reports, Baiul has been courting trouble almost from the moment she won her gold medal at the Lillehammer Olympics three years ago—the youngest champion since Norway's Sonja Henie in 1927—and became a millionaire celebrity overnight. Without parents to guide her (she was orphaned at 13 in her native Ukraine), Baiul struck out on her own, last year acquiring a $450,000 house and a Mercedes sedan and, according to friends, partying when she should have been training.

On Feb. 4, a chastened Baiul will learn if she has been admitted to the program—10 1½-hour "group interaction" sessions—that Connecticut offers to first-time DWI offenders who have no other arrests and who are not responsible for any serious injury. (Baiul cut her scalp, and her passenger, skater Ararat Zakarian, 30, broke a finger.) Blume says he has had clients "come out of this program and say, 'You know, I expected to learn about alcohol and drunk driving, but I learned a lot about life too.' "

A little introspection may be just what the headstrong teenager needs. Says Bob Young, who runs the Simsbury skating center where Baiul trains: "Oksana's a lucky girl. Now she needs to take that luck and hope the public will give her a second chance."

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