Almanac: The Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding scandal
The loudest scandal in figure skating. Tony Harding's story
Tonya Harding is a name that every figure skating figure of the 20th century knew. Now, after the premiere of the film Tonya Against All in 2017 and three Oscar nominations, the image of the rebellious figure skater has gone far beyond sports.
The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Harding in conversation, - the same high-profile scandal between her and her rival Nancy Kerrigan on the eve of the 1994 Olympic Games. In cahoots with her husband Jeff Gillowly and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, she allowed Shane Stant to attack her main rival. All this for the sake of entering the Olympic team and being the first.
We figured out what actually happened in the not very distant 1994, why the sporting fate of Tony Harding was initially a foregone conclusion and who is really to blame for what happened. We tell you this story.
The girl was born into a poor family of LaVona and Al Harding. Her own father had health problems that did not always allow him to work. But El went hunting and took Tonya with him, and also instilled in her a love of drag racing and taught the basics of mechanics. Harding's mother is a very impulsive woman, moreover, she often drank and rarely let go of the cigarette. LaVona humiliated her daughter and, according to Tony, even used physical violence, although she herself never admitted it or apologized for her actions.
In the movie Tonya Against All, the culmination of violence was shown in an episode where LaVona, in a fit of aggression, threw a knife into her daughter's shoulder. The emotional intensity of the scene is out of the picture. I would like to believe that this is an invention of the writers, because not everything in mocumentari reflects real events.
Tony's childhood cannot be called simple and happy. The girl dreamed of growing up as soon as possible, so that her life would be more stable, and her parents would direct her on the right path. However, in 2009, Tony's father died, and they have absolutely no relationship with his mother since 2002.
First steps and successes on ice
Tonya Harding started skating when she was only three years old. She loved to study, and her mother, in order to support her daughter's hobbies financially, worked as a waitress and handed over empty bottles and cans. But later everything turned in the opposite direction. The girl made great strides and developed her talent. Already at the age of 12, she was able to jump the triple lutz - one of the most difficult jumping elements by the standards of women's figure skating. Since then, LaVona and Tony's stepfather have been cashing in on success.x promising athlete.
From the age of 16, Harding began to compete in the American Senior Championships, but only by 1989 reached the podium, finishing in third place, and took gold at the Skate America Grand Prix stage. By 1990, Tonya was considered the main contender for the title of US champion. The happy predictions were ruined by a cold and developing asthma, due to which Harding was never able to cleanly perform her free program. The second place after the short one turned into the final seventh.
Crown triple axel
Tony's trump card was the triple axel - a jump, which is standard in the men's set. She became the second woman in the world and the first American to perform such a complex element cleanly. After the judges first saw this at the 1991 US Championship, Harding achieved the highest score for technique - 6.0, which the championship referee had given only once 13 years ago.
To understand how the triple axel execution was a breakthrough for figure skating at the time, you need to turn to the present. Even now, when little junior girls churn out quarter jumps, only one current figure skater, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, jumps with a 3.5-turn axel in the adult arena. So far, in the entire history of figure skating, there are only six women who were able to do this, and among them Tonya Harding.
However, such a complex element was subject to the skater only in one year of her career - 1991 - he was recognized the most successful. During this time, Tonya performed the axel four times without falls and inaccuracies. Later, she never again managed to do this in competitions.
The intensity of passions and conflict with Kerrigan
Then everything went as sad as possible. The newly emerging US figure skating star began to fade. Making her way to the 1992 Olympics, Tonya Harding took the jade fourth place, after which a whole series of ridiculous failures followed in her career. For example, at the 1993 US Championships, an athlete unbuttoned her suit, and she was forced to ask the judges to stop her performance. Further on Skate America - almost the same incident: a loose skate, due to which the program was also interrupted.
Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding on Ice
Photo: Pascal Rondeau / Getty Images
By the end of the year, terrible events began to occur, which served as the beginning of further Tony's conflict with Nancy Kerrigan. Before the selection for the national championship, the organizers of the event received anonymous threats against Harding. After that, the US Figure Skating Association decided to suspend the skater for safety reasons. On the one hand, many will call such a choice correct, but on the other ... Any skipping of big championships in the constantly evolving figure skating may threaten withnext year you run the risk of not meeting the level of the champion.
The turning point in your career
By the time of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, which happened on January 6, 1994, Tony was already having significant difficulties in his sports career ... On the eve of the Winter Olympics, she feared (and not without reason) that she might not make the US Olympic team. And for a skater, like any other athlete, winning the Games becomes the main dream. Only in figure skating years are worth their weight in gold, and if Tonya had not been in the national team at that time, then in four years, perhaps, competition would have completely ousted her from the international arena because of her age.
Nervous state Tony and the unknown pushed her ex-husband Jeff Gillowly and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt to persuade Shane Stant to break her rival Nancy's leg so that she could not qualify for the national team. However, Stant could not fulfill the cruel orders of the customers and only injured Kerrigan's leg with a telescopic baton just above the knee. While Nancy was forced to abandon the national championship, Tonya topped the standings and successfully entered the national team. Then what could easily be called karma happened.
Nancy Kerrigan was Tony's main rival
Photo: Pascal Rondeau / Getty Images
After an instant scandal, journalistic investigations and the threat of expulsion from the national team, Tonya nevertheless went on the Olympic ice, thanks to the founder of Nike Philip Knight. The game was not worth the candle. Tonya skated worse than usual, in addition, the skates were brought up again: the lace on one boot broke right before going out on the ice to perform a free program. Result - 8th place. But Nancy Kerrigan managed to recover, make up for lost time and take an honorable second place, losing only to Ukrainian Oksana Baiul.
Court ruling and dismissal
After the Olympics, justice was not long in coming. The Figure Skating Association's own investigation proved that Tonya knew about the attack plans and conspired. This is the main and decisive difference between reality and the filmed film.
In the film, Tonya is against everyone, the further fate of the skater, namely, a suspended sentence of three years, 500 hours of correctional labor, a $ 160,000 fine and a lifelong exclusion from the figure skater skating in any role seems unfair because, according to the script, Tonya was really framed. She not only did not know about the impending assassination attempt, but also became a kind of victim: it turned out that her bodyguard had sent a note with threats to her address.
In real life, everything turned out differently. She not only knew about the plans of her husband and his partners, but also initially considered the option of killing Nancy. He, of course, was immediately rejected.
Who is to blame?
A logical question, the answer to which seems to float on the surface. Of course, Tonya,Jeff Gillowly, Shawn Eckardt and Shane Stant, who already got what they deserved. But if you dig deeper and imagine a completely different upbringing and impartiality in the world of figure skating, then maybe everything would have turned out differently? Maybe then one of the most promising skaters would not have been involved in a conspiracy, removed from her favorite sport and would not try to flicker in boxing and even racing races?
Maybe. One thing is for sure: this girl has never been easy. Since childhood, she has faced injustice. Beating by mother, lack of support, unstable relationship with husband. Reproach from society and the world of skaters. Tonya was simply not what she needed to be - smoking, bruised, constantly nervous, with cheap dresses sewn with her own hand, without sponsors and with a scandalous family. Would this all ever be allowed to be the face of American figure skating? Hardly. And she, Tonya Harding, a girl with incredible talent and powerful physical data, always wanted it very much.