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December 21, 1998 12:00 AM

Making up for a rocky start on Monday, Tonya Harding skated a nearly perfect program Tuesday night to finish second in her first professional competition. She was rewarded with a loud ovation from the crowd. “I’d forgotten how it felt to step on the ice,” the 28-year-old said. “I will never forget this day.” Five years after her implication in the knee-whacking of rival Nancy Kerrigan and her last competition at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Harding brought the Huntington (W.V.) Civic Arena crowd to its feet by nailing all three triple jumps and performing a variety of spins. At Monday’s technical program, she fell twice on jumps and wound up in fourth place out of five skaters.

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