‘She'll never be remembered for how wonderful a figure skater she was. She'll be remembered for what I talked her into doing’
Tonya Harding now lives a relatively quiet life, but she was once embroiled in arguably the biggest scandal to ever hit the figure skating world.
The scandal has now inspired an upcoming movie starring Margot Robbie as Tonya. I Tonya (out in the U.K on 23rd Feb) tracks the early life and skating career of Harding and the explosive relationships that plagued – and eventually destroyed – her career. But who is the real Tonya Harding, and where is Tonya Harding now?
Who is Tonya Harding?
Tonya Harding, now 47, was born in Portland Oregon in 1970. Her parents split up when she was a child and she was raised alone by her mother LaVona. Their relationship was strained and Tonya claims LaVona emotionally and physically abused her. In a TV interview LaVona did admit to hitting Tonya once but rejected Harding’s claim that she was routinely abusive.
In 1991 Tonya Harding became the first woman to perform a triple axel in the short program and the first woman to execute two triple axels in a single competition, in the U.S Championships and the 1991 Championships. However, she was never able to complete a triple axel in a competition again. In the 1992 Winter Olympics she narrowly missed out on a medal, coming in fourth place. At the U.S Championships she finished sixth.
What happened between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding?
On 6th January 1994 figure skater and Tonya Harding’s U.S team competitor Nancy Kerrigan was walking through the corridors of the Cobo Arena after a practice session when Shane Stant walked past her and clubbed her on the knee. The incident was caught on camera by a news crew where Nancy could be seen crying ‘why why why?’ The bruising to her knee meant she was unable to compete in the U.S Figure Skating Championships which took place soon after, which Harding won.
After an FBI investigation it emerged that Stant had been hired by Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt to break Kerrigan’s knee so she would be unable to compete. The investigation was in tandem with the build-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, which both Kerringan (who had time to recover) and Harding were due to skate in.
The press attention surrounding the event was huge. Harding finished eighth after trouble with her laces, while Kerringan took the silver medal.
Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly accepted a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Tonya. Gillooly (along with Stant and Eckhardt) did serve time in prison for their parts in planning and executing the attack, but after pleading guilty to conspiracy Harding escaped jail but was banned from professional skating for life.
‘She’ll never be remembered for how wonderful a figure skater she was,’ said Gillooly in an interview for a 2014 ESPN documentary. ‘She’ll be remembered for what I talked her into doing.’
Where is Tonya Harding now?
Tonya Harding now lives a relatively quiet life in Oregon, married to her third husband Joseph Jens Price, with whom she has a son named Gordon.
But the years after her 1994 ban from skating were not without drama. Perhaps driven by financial need, among other things Harding and Gillooly sold a sex tape from their wedding night to Penthouse for $200 000, and in the early Noughties Harding had a short-lived boxing career. In 2014 she also appeared in an ESPN documentary about the 1994 scandal called The Price Of Gold.
Actress Allison Janney – who is tipped for an Oscar nomination for her role as Tonya’s mother LaVona in the film – says Harding was in touch with the writers of I, Tonya throughout the filming process. She is rumoured to have taken up skating again.
Where is Nancy Kerrigan now?
Nancy Kerrigan is now 48 and a married mother of three. She recently appeared as a contestant on the U.S version of Strictly, Dancing With The Stars, making it to the seventh week of the competition.
In an interview earlier this year, Kerrigan says she never got a direct apology from Harding for what happened at the 1994 Olympics, though added, ‘does it matter at this point?’
Unlike Harding, who was ejected from the sport in disgrace, Kerrigan has both bronze and silver Olympic medals and has been inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall Of Fame. Nancy Kerrigan’s net worth is reported to be around $8 million.