Trivia Minute January 6, 2016

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

by Marcus Michelson
Tonya Harding, left, and Nancy Kerrigan.
Tonya Harding, left, and Nancy Kerrigan.

On this date in 1994, American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a man hired by the husband of her main competitor, Tonya Harding.

Here are some things you may not have known about the skaters and the attack.

Nancy Kerrigan was born in 1969 in a suburb of Boston. She began skating at the age of six and won her first competition at age nine. She placed fourth in the junior competition at the U.S. championships in 1987, and made her senior debut the next season. She placed third at the 1991 U.S. Championships and earned a trip to the world championships. There she earned the bronze medal behind fellow Americans Kristi Yamaguchi and Tonya Harding. She finished third at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Tonya Harding was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1970. As a child, she claims she was physically abused by her mother. She began skating at age three and landed her first triple lutz at age 12. She dropped out of high school during her sophomore year to concentrate on figure skating. In 1991, she landed her first triple axel in competition on her way to winning the national championship. She was the first woman to complete a triple axel in a short program, the first woman to land two triple axels in one competition and the first woman to complete a triple axel/double toe loop combination. She finished fourth at the 1992 Olympics but failed to qualify for the 1993 World Championships.

Which brings us to 1994.

Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by Shane Stant following a practice session at the U.S. Championships at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. She was struck a few inches above the knee with a telescopic baton. Her leg was bruised, but not broken, but she was still forced to withdraw from the event which determined the two-person U.S. Olympic team. Harding won the title and a berth to the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It was later discovered that Stant was hired by Harding’s husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt. Kerrigan was named to the Olympic team despite not competing in the national championships.

Kerrigan earned the silver medal at Lillehammer, while Harding finished eighth, after restarting her free program due to a broken lace on her skate.

Kerrigan retired from competitive skating following the Olympics.

Gillooly, Eckhardt and getaway driver Derrick Smith were sent to prison for their parts in the attack. Harding pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder the prosecution of the attackers. She received three years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine. In June of 1994, Harding was stripped of her national championship and banned for life by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Harding later claimed that she didn’t go to authorities before the attack because Gillooly had threatened to kill her.

Following his release from prison, Gillooly changed his name to Jeff Stone. Eckhardt changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith. He died in 2007 at the age of 40.

Our question, who did Nancy Kerrigan bump from the 1994 Olympic Team?

Today is Apple Tree Day, national Bean Day and National Shortbread Day. It’s the birthday of musician Syd Barrett, comedian Rowan Atkinson and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

Now a look back at the entertainment charts from 30 years ago.

This week in 1986 the top song in the U.S. was “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Ritchie; the No. 1 movie was “Rocky IV” and “The Mammoth Hunters” by Jean M. Auel topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.



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