It was 1994 when the world of figure skating, which is usually uncorrelated with drama, was rocked by a scandal that seemed like it was birthed off the pages of a dramatic movie script.
Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding were not only the two most popular figure skaters of that time, they were apparently friends away from the rink. That is, until a widely publicized attack against Nancy Kerrigan took place after a practice session at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt hired someone to break Kerrigan’s right leg so that she would be unable to compete at Lillehammer. When she stepped off the ice after practice and walked behind a nearby curtain into a corridor, her attacker struck her on the knee with a telescopic baton. The injury forced her to withdraw from the national championship.
Here comes the doozy….Tanya Harding won that event.
Since that incident, both Tanya and Nancy were selected for the 1994 Olympic team. By that time, Kerrigan had fully recovered from her attack.
Chile’, that whole scandal was enough to call Olivia Pope! I had never witnessed so much drama in sports, especially in figure skating! I can recall one moment when Harding boo hooed on the ice during the Olympics, because the laces to her skates “broke”, leaving her to plead with judges to allow her to change them. Meanwhile, Nancy was on the other side of the rink, appearing cool, calm, and collected while practicing her triple axel combination and double toe loops like a G!
Nancy fell behind Oksana Baiul by taking the silver medal, but that didn’t stop the world from cheering her on. I think everyone and their mama tuned in to the Olympics that year, JUST to see “The Young & The Restless” on ice!
We were all glued to the television, on edge, hoping Nancy wouldn’t fall, but she delivered so effortlessly! Her entire performance was a huge middle finger for Tanya Harding.
Then there was this….
Gillooly accepted a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against Harding. Gillooly, Eckhardt, the attacker, and the getaway car driver all served time in prison for the attack.
Harding avoided further prosecution and a possible jail sentence by pleading guilty on March 16 to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers. She received three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $160,000 fine.
Harding’s involvement in the attack of Nancy Kerrigan led to months of media frenzy and overwhelming news coverage. She also became the laughing stock of every comedic joke on late night television, the subject on every magazine show, and was put on everybody’s shit list.
The last known shenanigans of Tanya Harding included releasing a sex tape and a short-lived boxing career. A return to the ice is unknown.
God bless her