On January 6, 1994, 25 years ago today, the genteel sport of figure skating became a media circus. For that was the day a shadowy figure clubbed Nancy Kerrigan on the leg as she left the ice after practice at the U.S. Olympic trials in Detroit.
“Someone was running by me, and he just, like, whacked me with this long, black stick!” Kerrigan said.
The attack plunged Kerrigan’s Olympic dreams into doubt, and focused suspicion on rival skater Tonya Harding.
Within days, Harding’s estranged husband Jeff Gillooly was arrested, along with three other men. Harding herself, on the other hand, proclaimed her innocence:
“I may have some bad points about me, but overall I think I’m a pretty good person,” Harding said.
After weeks in the media spotlight, Kerrigan and Harding confronted each other at the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Despite her injuries, Kerrigan won silver, while Harding – who had problems with her skate laces – finished well out of the running.
Harding later pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution, receiving three years probation and a $100,000 fine.
In a final blow, the U.S. Figure Skating Association banned Harding for life.
Despite the years, the story lives on in our national memory, most recently in the 2017 film “I, Tonya,” with Margot Robbie in the starring role (and, not surprisingly, NSFW): It’s a story skating fans hope will be told and retold only on the screen … and never again on the ice.