19 September 2020 22:38
Tonya Harding had fought hard to win her place as one of America's elite skaters - and she was determined she would one day win an Olympic medal. Always an outsider in the glamorous world of ice-skating, Tonya's ambition drove her to push herself to be the very best. Her childhood was marred by a lack of money, with skating Tonya's release from her life at home. Tonya's coach once said she saw skating as "her ticket out of the gutter". An unhappy marriage to Jeff Gillooly, who she had met when she was still a teenager, followed but nothing could keep Tonya from her dreams of winning a medal.
In the 1991 World Championships it seemed she was well on her way when she won silver and the following year finished fourth in the Olympics, narrowly missing out on a medal. The following years saw Tonya's form dip but by 1994 she was firmly on the comeback trail with only one person standing in her way - Nancy Kerrigan. Nancy had already won a bronze medal and was the darling of the skating world. She often swore in interviews with the press and her pop music played during her routines - Tonya was everything the skating world wasn't. Despite their rivalry, the two skaters were often roommates while competing, but Tonya harboured a bitter jealousy towards Nancy. And Nancy's early life had not been so different from Tonya's. Her father was a welder and worked several jobs to help push her ice-skating career. However, while Tonya insists Nancy was always the golden girl while she was the outsider, she did win the respect of the skating world with her awesome displays of power. Tonya was the first skater in America, and the second woman ever, to achieve a technically difficult triple axle jump. But then came the attack that would ultimately end Tonya's career and see her banned from skating for life, which was turned into the film, I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie. Just over a month before the Winter Olympics were due to start in Norway, Nancy was practising on the ice when she was brutally attacked in an assault that could have left her unable to walk. She said: "He hit me very hard, just once, then kept running. A probe was launched by the FBI and it soon became clear this wasn't a random assault and, instead, as a planned attack. The man behind what could have been a career-ending injury was Tonya's husband, Gillooly, who had hired Shawn Eckardt to orchestrate the assault Stant watched as Nancy trained and then, as she walked out of the arena, he struck, hitting her with a baton on her knee. Eckardt has since said agreed to take part so he could create a market for bodyguards for female skaters but was caught after he boasted to a pal about his plans, who told the FBI. As soon as they were arrested both Gillooly and Eckhart claimed Tonya had known about their violent plan all along, something she has denied. Instead, Tonya claimed in her autobiography that she had wanted to go to the police, but that she had been threatened with gang rape by her husband if she ever told anyone what he had done. Gillooly, who has now changed his name to Jeff Stone, always insisted Tonya's allegations of gang rape threats were "utterly ridiculous". After he was implicated in the attack on Kerrigan, Gillooly, sold an explicit sex tape of him and his wife to a TV show and stills from it were published in Penthouse in 1994. But as the media frenzy around her rage, Tonya continued to insist she had no involvement in what had happened to Nancy and concentrated on her skating in preparation for the Olympics, which were just weeks away. Meanwhile, Nancy was also doing everything she could to ensure she could compete, undergoing intensive therapy to repair her knee and eventually winning a silver medal in Norway. A month after the Winter Olympics, Gillooly and his henchmen were sentenced and all served time in prison for the attack. Tonya's husband was jailed for two years while Stant had to serve 18 months behind bars. But for the skater who dreamed of glory a worse punishment was doled out - she was stripped of all championship titles and banned from skating for life. Following the 1994 Olympics, Nancy retired from amateur competition and focused her career on performing in ice shows and worked as a sports commentator. Tonya, who now works as a welder, said: "Everyone made a life and a livelihood except me." She dabbled in professional boxing following the attack and now lives back in Oregon with her second husband Joseph, with her son, Gordon. THE story of her glittering career and subsequent fall from grace have been immortalised in the acclaimed film 'I, Tonya' - set to be aired again on September 19. But who is Tonya Harding and when was the attack on Nancy Kerrigan? 2 Tonya's story is told in a new film called I, Tonya Credit: Getty Images - Getty Tonya Harding, 47, is an American figure skater who was the 1991 US champion and 1991 World Championship silver medallist. She has been married three times - to Jeff Gillooly (1990 - 1993), to Michael Smith (1995 - 1996) and to Joseph Jens Price (married in 2010). The skater's legacy will forever be defined by her association with an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow competitor Nancy Kerrigan. The scandal eventually led to the end of Tonya Harding's career in figure skating. Six months after the attack she was stripped of her titles (including the World Championship title she won while Nancy was out of action) and she was also banned from competing. Tonya also had a leaked sex tape, featuring then-husband Jeff Gillooly - who sold the tape after being implicated in the Kerrigant attack. 2 Tonya Harding, left, skates past compatriot Nancy Kerrigan during a practice session at the Olympic Games in Norway in 1994 Credit: AFP When was the attack on Nancy Kerrigan? Tonya's ex-husband hired a man to injure Nancy in the run up to the 1994 Winter Olympics. The film explores the rivalry between Tonya and fellow skater Kerrigan. Who is Tonya Harding's ex-husband? There has been renewed controversy over the incident after Tonya revealed confessed that she overheard her ex husband Jeff Gillooly and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt talking about carrying out an attack on one of her competitors. The pair would later hire Shane Stant, who assaulted US skater Nancy Kerrigan with a baton - striking her above the knee, five weeks before the Olympics. Kerrigan, who was attacked in Detroit after a training session, only suffered bruising and managed to win Silver at that year's games in Norway.