Blood on the ice: the Tonya Harding story

The biggest story in the history of women’s skating had more to do with a telescoping baton than a triple lutz. This story was EVERYWHERE in 1994

Like, on the site The People History, which catalogues what happened in various years, it’s right up there with the Rwandan Genocide as the most significant events of the year.

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Anyway, it was the winter of 1994. Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, the top female figure skaters in America, were getting ready for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships ahead of the Olympics in Norway. Nancy Kerrigan looked smokin’ hot every time she took the ice:

After one of the last practices leading up to the U.S. Championships, Nancy Kerrigan was struck above her right knee with a telescoping baton. You know, one of these things.

(Image source/MidwayUSA.com)
(Image source/MidwayUSA.com)

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It was eventually determined that the man was hired by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly.

Kerrigan’s leg was badly bruised, and as a result of the injury, she had to withdraw from the competition in Detroit. Tonya Harding won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and both women were selected for the U.S. Olympic team.

Nancy Kerrigan, recovered from her knee injury, took the silver medal at Lillehammer. Tonya Harding finished eighth.

Of course, the greater drama occurred off the ice, as Gillooly’s role was widely known, and he and his co-conspirators would eventually wind up in prison for the planning and execution of the attack.

 

As Gillooly and company claimed Harding had knowledge of the attack, the U.S. Olympic Committee pondered kicking Harding off the team. Harding responding with a $25 million lawsuit.

It’s unknown, ultimately what role Harding had in the attack. Gillooly indicated he had told Harding about the attack ahead of time, and she signed off. Harding, for her part, never went further than saying she found out about the attack after it happened.

“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. This is based on civil standards, not criminal standards.”

USFSA panel chairman William Hybl to the Washington Post

Harding was effectively banned from the sport in the wake of the attack.

Years later, in her autobiography, The Tonya Tapes, the disgraced skater said she had tried to call the FBI to spill the beans. Gillooly, however, scared her into not doing it with death threats and gunpoint gang rape.