This December sees the release of I, Tonya, a film that you probably won’t go to see but will feature Margot Robbie as infamous ice skater Tonya Harding. It’s high time for a film on the life of the fascinating Harding, especially as she was involved in one of the most dramatic and bizarre situations in all of sport during her rivalry with Nancy Kerrigan. Here now are the events which gripped the sporting world in 1994 as I remember them.
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in 2017’s I, Tonya.
It was the Ali-Frazier, Borg-McEnroe, Yankees-Redsox, Coe-Ovett, Senna-Proust, Rousey-Tate, Hogan-Warrior of the Ice Skating world. A yin and yang clash between two competitors who could not have been more polar opposites in terms of style, personalities and background.
Nancy Kerrigan was the poster child for the sport. A beautiful, elegant, classy lady, with a smile like a unicorn running on a rainbow and who seemed to float across the ice like a graceful fairy tiptoeing on tulips. Off the rink she was just as charming and coming from a modest background had worked hard her whole life to reach the top of her profession.
And God wanted an ice skater and her name was Nancy Kerrigan.
Rising at the same time was Tonya Harding, a talented skater and the first woman to complete a triple axl thingy and still have all her limbs in the right places afterwards. Sadly she dared to have been brought in a background that can snootily be declared as “trailerpark trash” and for the purposes of this piece and adding drama to this rivalry we’ll therefore ignore the troubled childhood and impoverished upbringing she had to struggle through and make something of herself and instead pretend she was a rough, hard drinking, rebel rousing, redneck daughter of a bitch. (Actually the last bit as true as her mother sounds a complete bitch who once slapped her on the rink for underachieving in a performance).
The contrast was as severe as the two ballet dancers in Black Swan, but without the confusing dream sequences and hot girl girl action. In short Tonya’s hair, make-up and costumes were not as nice as those of lovely Nancy and so a natural rivalry was born. Class vs Trash, foul mouthed yob vs All American girl, the big showdown was to take place at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, but a more apt place name should have been LilleBATON (or perhaps it should have taken place in Baton Rouge or SPOILER the attacker should have used a hammer).
The day of the competition arrived, the atmosphere was tense, the future of ice skating was on the line. Showtime was approaching but evil eyes glared through the eyeholes of a mask, glaring with jealously at an angel. Nancy Kerrigan had just left the rink after a warm up session and was probably on her way to talk to kids in a hospital unaware that she was being stalked.
A bloodcurdling howl came from behind a curtain and organisers rushed to the scene to find a screaming Kerrigan clutching her knee. In the distance a masked assailant could be seen fleeing the building having attacked Kerrigan, smashing her knee with a baton with the intention of taking her out of the tournament.
To the anguish cries of “Why????” Kerrigan was stretched out of the arena, heartbreakingly robbed of her Gold medal dreams.
Rare footage of the assailant fleeing the scene.
Meanwhile, bold as brass Tonya Harding took to the ice and to the strains of “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” salaciously gyrated through a raunchy set, finishing with a smirk on face that said “beat that!”.
In an attempt to secure full marks Tonya shamelessly offers to show judges her vagina.
With the gold medal seemingly going to the gutter, a solemn announcer took to the ice and began to explain to the crowd that due to the injury suffered in her attack Nancy Kerrigan would not be competing that night. Then in a moment that stunned the world the announcer was interrupted as the first through bars of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica sounded throughout the arena. The crowd exploded and rose as one recognising Kerrigan’s familar performance music. All attention was fixed on the curtain to the entrance to the rink and the arena erupted as a limping Nancy Kerrigan emerged, her knee still dripping blood, her face etched in agony with each step she took towards the ice.
Officials attempt to hold Kerrigan back as she determinedly makes her way to the ice.
In a line that would become the most famous in announcing history a frantic BBC’s Barry Davies yelled out “She’s here!!! By God she’s here, broken leg and all Nancy Kerrigan is going to compete!!!”
Pushing aside her coaches who begged her to reconsider, Nancy Kerrigan limped onto the ice and gutted through a performance that Duff Mckagen of Guns N Roses later referred to as “The most breathtaking display of guts and elegance ever to grace the sport of ice skating!”
She was a one legged angel that night.
Holding back the pain and tears just long enough to complete her routine, Nancy beaming smiled lasted until the end of the music and with her knee finally buckling she collapsed to the ice now red with her blood. The crowd and millions watching at home watched in joyous disbelief, while a distraught Tonya raged beside herself having thought the gold medal was all hers for the taking.
A distraught Tonya watches Kerrigan in disbelief.
Worse was to come for Tonya as later investigations would reveal it was her husband who had orchestrated the plot against Kerrigan. Tonya’s husband and bodyguard served time in jail for the attack while Tonya was barred from the sport for good.
Tonya visits her husband in jail while he served time for his part in the attack.
Kerrigan won Gold for her amazing performance, but sadly it would be the last time she would ever compete. The effort took a terrible strain on her knee and her leg had to amputated. Kerrigan joined the United Nations as an ambassador and is said to have had a key role in the end of Apartheid and the fall of the Berlin Wall which took place several years before. She probably voted for Hilary Clinton.
Despite winning gold big hearted Kerrigan allowed the silver medallist to stand in the middle….and apparently swapped medals with her.
After ice skating Harding had a sex tape leaked, if by leaked you mean she sold it to Penthouse for $200,000. Later she had a succesful career in MMA, winning the Invicta Bantamweight title and recently joined the UFC, going three rounds with Cyborg. Chances are she voted Trump.
And that’s exactly as I remember it all.