Figure skating fans and Portland weirdness aficionados are familiar with the saga of Tonya Harding who transitioned from famous to infamous at the 1994 Olympics. Ms. Harding was the U.S. Figure Skating champion in 1991 and placed second behind Kristi Yamaguchi in that year’s World Championship. She was the first woman to complete a triple axel jump at a sanctioned international event. She finished fourth at the 1992 Winter Olympics.
At a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, prior to the 1994 Olympics, Harding’s Olympic teammate and competitor for media spotlight, Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted after leaving the rink. Her attacker hit her on the leg, above the knee, with a police baton. Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the event, which Harding went on to win. Ms. Kerrigan recovered in time to win a silver medal at the Olympic competition. Harding placed eighth.
Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband and Shawn Eckhardt, her bodyguard, had hired Kerrigan’s assailant, with instructions to break her leg and thus prevent her participation in further competitions. The attacker and his employers all served time for this misdeed. Tonya Harding was also implicated. Gillooly cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for testimony against his ex-wife. Ms. Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution of the attackers. She received three years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine. The U.S. Figure Skating Association stripped her of her title and imposed a lifetime ban on participation in any future events.
Nancy Kerrigan has stayed in the public eye making guest appearances in TV and movies, a special correspondent at the 2010 Winter Olympics, competing on Dancing With the Stars. She was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2004.
Tonya Harding has also stayed in the public eye, promoting an explicit “wedding video” of she and Gillooly, managing professional wrestlers, commentator on the cable TV show World’s Dumbest…, and professional boxer, including winning a bout against Paula Jones. In 1996 she used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation revive an eighty-one-year-old woman who had collapsed while playing video poker in a bar.
The Tonya Harding legend has recently resurfaced with the Hollywood promotion machine’s publicizing a major motion picture of her life. I, Tonya is now being filmed and is due for release in 2018.