The 2018 Oscars are almost here, and if you’re trying to stream as many nominated movies as you can this weekend, definitely try to get your hands on I, Tonya. The story is mostly true, and so are the characters in it. If you haven’t seen it, here’s some stuff to know, including important facts about Tonya Harding, real-life professional ice-skater, and the man she married who helped destroy her career.
Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was about to take to the ice during a practice session a few days before the 1994 U.S. Women’s Championships in Detroit. But everything changed in a moment when she was clubbed in the knee during an attack that was eventually linked to her main competitor, Tonya Harding, and Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. Thanks to the critically-acclaimed biopic I, Tonya, the scandal is back in the limelight. And a lot of people are currently wondering who Jeff Gillooly is in real life
(Nancy Kerrigan went on to win silver in the 1994 Winter Olympics, and Harding didn’t place, in case you were wondering.)
Before the attack that shook the nation, Gillooly was a conveyer belt operator who also served as Harding’s manager. The two were married in 1990 and later divorced in 1993 after a shaky marriage. Harding reportedly filed for divorce two separate times, citing abuse allegations against Gillooly. The two got back together after their split but separated for good after the Kerrigan incident.
In the 2008 book The Tonya Tapes, Harding told an interviewer that during the first few days of the Kerrigan investigation, Gillooly and his goons took her into the mountains to frighten her into silence. Gillooly and his two friends reportedly raped her at gunpoint, although Gillooly has since countered the story, claiming it’s false.
In February 1994, Gillooly pleaded guilty to racketeering (aka, a planned or organized criminal act) and was sentenced to two years in prison. During his court appearance he also implicated Harding, stating she knew about the plan to attack Kerrigan.
Gillooly and Harding were supposedly co-conspirators alongside Harding’s bodyguard Shawn Eckardt. Harding never confessed to knowing about the plan, although she eventually pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution by not coming forward with what she did know, and she was sentenced to three years probation.
After serving his time, Gillooly tried his best to fall off the radar. In 1995 he changed his last name to Stone. However, he then dealt with multiple restraining orders, assault arrests, a DUI, lawsuits, and bankruptcy. In 2013, Deadspin caught up with “Stone” at his Clackamas, Oregon home which he shares with his third wife Christy Novasio and and his two children by ex-wife Nancy Sharkey (who committed suicide in 2005)..
Stone did say he’s saddened by the fact that Harding is now remembered for the thing he “talked her into doing” rather than for her talent on the ice. And he says he’s sincerely apologetic towards Nancy Kerrigan.
The scandal left a long-lasting and dark mark in the world of competitive sports, and we sincerely hope nothing like this ever happens again.