Yesterday marked 20 years since Tonya Harding’s infamous involvement in the assault of Olympic figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan.
For those who aren’t aware of the astounding story that shocked the nation, Harding was actually a rival of Kerrigan’s. A premeditated assault on Kerrigan was orchestrated by Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, and three other co-conspirators.
On Jan. 6, 1994, six weeks before the Winter Olympics, Kerrigan was practicing the night before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Cobo Arena in Detroit.
Kerrigan was brutally struck in the right knee with a police baton backstage by co-conspirator Shane Stant. As a result of the injury Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Championships. With Kerrigan’s withdrawal, Harding had a more probable chance of winning, and she ultimately walked out with the victory.
While the infamous hit was actually meant to stifle and end Kerrigan’s career, it was actually only the beginning. Kerrigan recovered rather quickly and continued training. Seven weeks after the attack, Kerrigan skated what she declared, “the best two performances of her life,” winning the silver medal in the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre.
The gut-wrenching incident, which became known as, “The Whack Heard Round the World,” actually catapulted Kerrigan to an unprecedented level of fame that went far beyond the rink. But, things were the exact opposite for Harding. As a matter of fact, her role in Kerrigan’s assault permanently tainted her career.
Now, 20 years after the incident, Harding speaks out on those lasting effects she’s endured due to her involvement in Kerrigan’s injury. She also shared how overwhelming the media attention became after the assault, reports ABC News.
Harding actually denied having any involvement in Kerrigan’s assault to increase her chances of winning the gold at the 1994 Winter Olympics. But, to no avail. The media firestorm only grew worse, and Harding described it as ‘overwhelming.’
You just get hit by everything all at once and you just want to crawl in a closet and say go away and leave me alone because you just don’t know what is going on,” she explained.
However, two months after Kerrigan’s attack, Harding plead guilty to hindering the prosecution. She claims to have learned of the planned assault after it was carried out, but failed to report the knowledge. As a result, Harding was banned from competitive skating.
Harding also claims she has apologized to Kerrigan for her ex-husband’s actions. Kerrigan has never responded.
Image via Wikimedia | Tonya Harding