Before you watch “I, Tonya,” you should know what happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
If you’re anything like us, you’re still freaking out about the I, Tonya teaser that was released yesterday — and what a convincing turn Margot Robbie takes as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. But the events that led to Harding’s downfall happened more than 20 years ago, so perhaps it’s time for a refresher.
Here’s a brief history of what happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.
Tonya Harding made a name for herself in 1991 when she, among other feats, became the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition. But not long after that, Kerrigan started gaining more and more traction, earning a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics.
Harding and Kerrigan were the lead contenders for the two spots on the 1994 U.S. Olympics Figure Skating Team, and the competition between them was fierce. Their rivalry contributed to suspicions when Kerrigan was “whacked” in the knee on January, 6th 1994 at a Detroit ice rink — just before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which served as the Olympic trials.
Harding went on to win the championships, along with a place on the Olympic team. And Kerrigan began rehabilitating her knee (which was not fractured, but the athlete did suffer from a cut, bruise, and swelling) and claimed the second Olympic spot. Ultimately, she did earn that spot to compete in Lillehammer, Norway.
An investigation, of course, followed the attack. And suspicions about Harding’s potential involvement — which she denied when questioned — grew after it was revealed that people she was associated with were behind in the attack.
Namely, Jeff Gillooly.
Gillooly — whom she divorced in 1993, but had an on-again, off-again relationship with — connected with his friend (and Harding’s bodyguard) Shawn Eckardt in mid-December 1993 about taking Kerrigan out of the competition. So Eckardt then arranged for hit man Shane Stant and getaway driver Derrick Smith to carry out the deed.
Just days after the attack, Smith came clean to FBI agents and Stant did too, shortly thereafter. Gillooly, meanwhile, was charged with conspiracy to assault Kerrigan, and he eventually said yes to a deal that would implicate Harding.
Later, the skater altered her story to say that she learned of Gillooly’s involvement after the attack, and she announced that before the Olympics. Despite the controversy surrounding that, Harding remained on the team when she sued the United States Olympics Committee to prevent them from removing her.
When the Olympics came along, Harding took eighth place, and Kerrigan came in second — though, many believe she gave a gold-worthy performance.
Following the Olympics, Harding plead guilty to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution of those behind Kerrigan’s attack. As a result, she was fined more than $150,000, sentenced to 500 hours of community service, as well as probation. As far as her career, she was banned from the United States Figure Skating Association for life, and her 1994 championship title was revoked. Kerrigan, meanwhile, continued to skate.
Of course, there’s much, much more to the story than this that I, Tonya (in theaters December 8th) will surely address, and we can’t wait to watch.