Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding : The infamous assault that shook the Olympic world
The infamous assault that shook the Olympic world (1994)
When one thinks of violence in sports, Figure Skating as a subject would be a stretch by any great imagination. Though in January of 1994, Olympian & USA Figure Skater Nancy Kerrigan was brutally assaulted with a 21-inch baton in one of the most cynical, pre-meditated attacks in sporting history. She would be forced to withdraw from the National Championships the following night, raising suspicion towards rival skater Tonya Harding, who would go on to win the gold medal and clinch her spot at the 1994 Norway Winter Olympics.
Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan had been fierce rivals for years within the sport and were battling for their spot in the upcoming winter Olympics in early 1994. Following a practice run on January 6th at the Coba Arena in Detroit, Kerrigan was retreating to her dressing room for the evening, when a man named Shane Stant ran up along side her and maliciously struck her in the left knee before fleeing the arena in a get away car. The following days launched the sports world and media into a frenzy, with speculation that rival skater Tonya Harding had conspired to have Kerrigan eliminated from the competition. A few days later, Tonya Harding’s on-and-off ex-husband would be charged with conspiracy to commit assault, alongside Stant and Harding’s bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, conforming the job was planned.
At the time, Harding maintained her innocence and went on to controversially compete alongside a recovered Nancy Kerrigan at the Norway olympics. Nancy would win a silver medal over Harding’s 8th place finish, a rather fitting bit of karma. Following the Olympics, Tonya would plead guilty and be stripped of her national championship & banned from the USFSA. The notorious scandal has even been adapted in Hollywood, with Margot Robbie playing a compelling Tonya Harding in the movie I, Tonya (2017).