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Tonya Harding Biography

Began On Used Skates, Rose In Sport Despite Hardships, Chronology, The Infamous Footage, Linked To Odd Phone QueryCONTACT INFORMATION


American figure skater

The pre-Olympic hype prior to the 1994 Winter Olympic Games intensified considerably when American figure skater Tonya Harding was implicated in a bizarre attack on her ice rival, Nancy Kerrigan. The now infamous incident occurred some six weeks before the Lillehammer Games were to begin as Harding and Kerrigan vied for top position on the women's team at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan. As Kerrigan came off the ice one day, a mysterious man whacked her knee with a police baton, and then fled. Days later, Harding's ex-husband and three other men were linked to the attack. Kerrigan recovered and skated for a silver medal-win at Lillehammer, but Harding became the object of derision and ridicule. Her skating career effectively ended after Lillehammer, where she finished in eighth place.

Some of the intense media scrutiny surrounding the Harding-Kerrigan story seemed to be heightened because of the women's seemingly pitch-perfect story-book roles: Harding was an athletic, daring skater who came from an impoverished, somewhat rough family background. She struggled for years to pay for her skating lessons, costumes, and travel costs, and had emerged as a kind of folk-hero success story by the time she arrived in Detroit. Kerrigan, on the other hand, embodied what made figure skating such a popular spectator event: possessing classic New England cheekbones and flawless skin, she was elegant and poised both on and off the ice.


Address: Tonya Harding, U.S. Figure Skating Association, 20 First St., Colorado Springs, CO 80906-3624.

Sketch by Carol Brennan

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsFigure Skating