A Look Inside the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan Figure Skating Scandal

When Skating Gets Icy

Figure Skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images / Getty Images

You may have heard that two skaters, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, were involved in a figure skating scandal. What happened during the altercation and what resulted from it? How did this event impact the face of figure skating?

Just before the 1994 Olympics, right after a practice session at the United States National Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by Tonya Harding.

Nancy was coming off of the ice and was hit hard with a hard object on her knee. The accident made it impossible for her to compete, and Tonya Harding won the Championship Ladies event.

Shortly after that, it was alleged that Tonya Harding might have been part of the conspiracy to hurt Nancy. Tonya was banned from U.S. Figure Skating for life and made headlines around the world. It was never determined who did hit Nancy Kerrigan, although a back-and-forth battle ensued between Tonya Harding and her ex-husband, who was also a suspect. Neither were ever convicted.

"Tonya and Nancy" and the Media

The "Kerrigan Attack" increased the popularity of figure skating. People were interested in the story of the two female rivals and wanted to know the truth about what happened during the event. A novel was written, followed by a musical play and a few television movies that were made about the incident.

The popularity of the event was evident, even 20 years later in early 2014, when two more documentaries brought the incident back into the public's eye.

About Tonya Harding

It is said that Tonya Harding may perhaps be the most controversial person in figure skating history.

Some of the highlights of Tonya Harding's competitive career include:

  • Placing 4th at the 1992 Olympics
  • Coming in 2nd at the 1991 World Championships
  • Placing 1st at the 1991 U.S. Nationals

Harding also won the United States National Figure Skating Championships in 1994, but all records of her winning that title have been erased due to the incident.

About Nancy Kerrigan

Nancy Kerrigan won the bronze medal in 1992 and the silver medal in 1994 in women's figure skating at the Olympics. She also was the U.S. Ladies Champion in 1993.

After she was attacked in 1994, Nancy Kerrigan famously said, "Why me? Why, why, why?" This was captured on film, though some people say she only cried, "Why?" over and over again.

"Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera"

Here's another example of how popular the scandal became. "Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera," produced in February of 2008, was an expanded version of "Tonya and Nancy: The Opera" which was an original one-act chamber opera. Both productions are based on the Tonya Harding / Nancy Kerrigan 1994 figure skating scandal.