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January 6, 1994, will always be known as the day one of the biggest sports scandals in American history took place. Olympians Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were getting ready for their second Games together when Kerrigan was attacked. To this day Harding claims she’s innocent. The scandal happened over 20 years ago and recently a new reason to revisit the case. Multiple documentaries have been created in the past about the incident, and now Margot Robbie starred in Hollywood’s newest film I, Tonya, which hit theaters on December 8th.
In a time when some women choose to take each other down in spite of their own careers and friendships, the movie definitely revealed an interesting point of view.Harding was the first American woman to land a triple axel and she did it in the 1991 US Figure Skating Championships. She ended up getting a perfect score and took first place while Kerrigan received bronze. The two had gone against each other in the 1992 Olympics in France, where Kerrigan took bronze and Harding finished fourth. Their relationship extended beyond healthy competition. It was even to the point where it was much more than the fact that they were both racing for that top spot. Both ladies were making big names and big money for themselves, but Kerrigan was represented more. She had many sponsorships including ones with Campbell’s, Seiko, Revlon, and Reebok. Her overall persona seemed to win over the public more, even though Harding had a slight skating advantage.
Harding and Kerrigan were practicing for the US Women’s Championships in Detroit, on January 6, 1994. The championship was set to take place the following day and it would decide who qualified to move onto the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway. That night, before the qualifying skate, Kerrigan was walking off the ice after practice when she was struck in the right knee with a baton. The attacker was thought to be a man hired by Harding’s ex-husband. In the moments before and after the attack, which were caught on tape, Kerrigan can be seen on the ground crying and screaming. In between sobs, she described the object she was struck with as a hard black stick. Kerrigan was hit on her right kneecap, which was her landing leg on the ice.The doctor who examined Kerrigan after the attack said the attacker was clearly trying to debilitate her. Luckily, there was no fracture, but she did suffer from a bruise, limp, and severe swelling. This put her crucial tryout in jeopardy and everyone was worried if she would be able to skate the very next day. The doctor said it wouldn’t hurt for her to skate, from a medical standpoint. But the pain proved to be too much and Harding went on to take first place the next day.
The US Olympic Committee wanted to disqualify Harding from competing, but when she came back with a $25 million lawsuit, they allowed her to go for the title. Kerrigan took home the silver medal. Harding, on the other hand, nearly missed her chance all together when one of her laces snapped before it was her turn. She cried and the judges let her skate later but she finished eighth.Harding still says that she didn’t know about the attack prior to its occurrence. However, she did admit that she found out shortly after it was carried out and in March 1994, she pleaded guilty to hindering the investigation. She was sentenced to probation, community service, and a fine. After the investigation was complete, in addition to suspending her from competing in sponsored events, the US Figure Skating Association stripped Harding of her 1994 national championship. “By a preponderance of the evidence, the five members of the panel concluded that she had prior knowledge and was involved prior to the incident,” William Hybl, the hearing panel chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post.Kerrigan retired from active competition. However, she continued to show her moves in a variety of ice skating shows. She competed on Dancing With the Stars during its 24th season.
In 2006, she was on Fox’s Skating With Celebrities, and she even was in Blades of Glory with Will Ferrell. Will we ever know of Harding’s true involvement in Kerrigan’s attack? Probably not. But it’s cool to see how the women are portrayed in the recent film.
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