Twenty Years Ago Today: Tonya Harding

If we're in America, it must be celebrity scandal time, right? Well, not always. But today it is! Because twenty years ago today, Wayne Gillooly accepted a plea bargain following an attack upon skater Nancy Kerrigan, in which he and an accomplice hired a man to break her leg. She was only bruised, but had to withdraw from the US figure skating championships, giving her rival Tonya Harding the chance she needed to win.

It will come as no surprise that Gillooly and Harding knew each other. They were once married, then divorced, and then reconciled - but Gillooly's plea bargain was to be in exchange for testimony against Harding herself, so that was pretty much an end to that.

The media had been going crazy ever since the attack on January the 6th, and proceeded to go even more loopy as they scented an even more rotten reek of scandal. The question of the upcoming Winter Olympics loomed large: would Harding be permitted to compete for the USA? In the event she was, although she only came 8th.

Harding pleaded guilty to conspiring to conceal the names of the attackers in March, thus somehow escaping a jail sentence (something that nobody else involved in the attack managed). Her career, though, was over; she was forced to resign from the USFSA, had her 1994 US Championship title removed, and was treated as a pariah by all and sundry within the sport.


Harding had been talented but erratic, and her career over the next twenty years was a series of desperate attempts to first escape and then trade on her notoriety, including careers in boxing and TV presenting, and a successful attempt at a land speed record while driving a 1931 Ford Model A.

And that's all I'm going to say about Tonya Harding. Let's all pretend she doesn't exist for the rest of the year, okay?

(incidentally, her website is on sale for $3500 at the time of writing. Sounds like a bargain!)