News Nostalgia: Let’s Talk About Nancy Kerrigan’s Attack

Writing about Kerri Strug last week reminded me of another momentous event that occurred in female sports – figure skating, to be exact. Back in the early ’90s, the tabloid fodder was all about the relationship between competitors Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, and here’s why.

During a practice session for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee by Shane Stant, who was a man hired by Hardin’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt. Stant originally was planning to attack Kerrigan at her training rink in Massachusetts, but followed her to Detroit when realizing she wasn’t there. His weapon of choice? A collapsible police baton.

While Stant was aiming to break her leg to make her ineligible to compete, her leg was merely bruised – which was definitely a deterrent to her performing in the national championship. Based on her having to withdrawl, Harding ended up winning, making both eligible for the 1994 Olympic team.

Eventually, Harding admitted to taking part in the crime, which forced the United States Olympic Committee to start proceedings to remove her from the Olympic team. But after threatening legal action and later pleading guilty for conspiracy, she remained on the team.

Harding had additional problems during the 1994 Olympics in Lilehammer with a pretty embarrassing meltdown set to the tune of Jurassic Park, when an issue with her laces caused her to walk on the ice late for her Women’s Free Skate performance, and bail after having to minimize one of her lutz’s. According to the announcers in the video below, this wasn’t Harding’s first issue with a wardrobe malfunction prior to a routine.

While Harding managed to avoid jail time for the attack, she did receive a punishment: three years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine. Harding was also forced to withdraw from the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships and resign from the USFSA (which is the national governing body of figure skating in the United States). The USFSA was serious about the incident – after investigating even further, they decided to strip Harding of her 1994 title, and ban her for life from participating in their events as either a skater or a coach.

Gillooly, Standt, Eckhardt and their runaway driver, Derrick Smith, all went to jail for the crime. Gillooly eventually changed his name to “Jeff Stone”. Since her punishment for the incident, Harding has involved herself with a lot of embarrassing projects (a sex tape with Gillooly – er, Stone – being one) and has had further complications with police. In February 2000, she was booked on fourth-degree domestic violence assault charges for punching and throwing a hubcap at a now-ex boyfriend.

As for Kerrigan, she retired from competition after the Olympics, and often appears in a variety of ice shows. She’s also known for providing commentary on the sport, serving as a “special correspondent” for Entertainment Tonight during the 2010 Winter Olympics. In 2004, she was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is, crime doesn’t pay. (That sounds better than “Crime can ruin the rest of your life,” which in Harding’s case, it pretty much did.)

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