Currently reading : Tonya Harding – Dark Days

Tonya Harding – Dark Days

10 March 2015

Author : editorial

Tonya Maxene Harding is an American figure skating champion, a two-time Olympian, and a two-time Skate America Champion. In 1991, she won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and placed second in the World Championships.

I think that she’s a powerhouse and her talent made her the Olympic medal winner and at one time the best women’s figure skater in the world. She has a taste for competition and a fighting spirit. However I think this gumption was fuelled by her sad upbringing with her abusive mother. She went from an abusive mother to an abusive marriage – a man whose actions would lead to her complete demise within the career she had spent nearly her entire life working towards.

“Her mother was married six times; she grew up in a trailer home, was called trailer trash, called a white nigger. Abused child, abused wife. Her insides must look like a broken glass. But she keeps smiling and keeps skating.” — Jesse Jackson

She’s kind of amazing, despite having had the most harsh and abstract life and carries on fighting and believing in herself all the way. After it was found out that her then husband Jeff Gillooly had indeed arranged for her bodyguard to smash the knee of her rival Nancy Kerrigan during the 1994 Olympics with a metal bat, Harding was banned from skating either as a skater or a coach forever. There is no definite way of knowing if she was involved prior to the attack, as Gillooly states that she was but whether she would risk everything on such an outlandish plan is debatable. After the Olympics and under much pressure she signed a plea bargain which included her 1994 title to be revoked and all of her money gone in court fees and fines. This bizarre story captivated the American public for the next few months but took its toll heavily on Tonya.

The attack on Kerrigan occurred during the 1994 U.S figure skating championships, where although she couldn’t compete due to her injuries, she was chosen along with Harding to compete at the Olympics a month later. The incident and scandal turned the 1994 Olympics into a media frenzy camping out to see who would win gold – the ‘all American ice princess dream’ or the ‘trailor trash cheat’. The tape delayed broadcast of the short program at the Olympics remains one of the most watched telecasts in American History.

Tonya went into the 1994 Olympics hoping to again land her signature triple axel and win the gold, unfortunately she didn’t land it and came 8th, Kerrigan won the silver medal and an unknown teenage new comer Oksana baiul won the Gold. Many speculate that the Gold was purposely taken from both Kerrigan and Harding as a punishment for the unwanted hoards of media who flooded the arena throughout the entire games.

A couple of months after the Olympic games Harding signed the plea bargain that stripped her of her title, 500 hours community service, $160’000 in fines and banned her from USFSA forever.

As she left school super early to pursue her skating she was forced to think of inventive ways to earn a living now she was completely shunned from the skating world. After a bunch of TV appearances in 2002 she began boxing and in 2003 even boxing on the same game card as Mike Tyson. Sadly her boxing talent was not as exceptional as her skating one and her boxing career ended too.

Although she won many things, it seems she may have been ultimately doomed from the beginning due to her upbringing. So I find it inspiring that she continually picks herself up and tries again in a constant pursuit of success, something I can relate to as young creative in the city!

Tonya with her unsupportive, abusive mother at a training session during the olympics, she would never congratulate her on any of her successes and constantly told her she would amount to nothing


Nancy and Tonya together after the attack, Kerrigan wearing the same costume she was wearing when she was attacked, Tonya was shaken by this and it was a very stressful meeting for the both of them, they had to train together in this tiny ring during the 1994 olympics with 400 photographers and over 500 spectators waiting and watching for a fight.


Tonya winning in 1991 after successfully landing the triple axel and receiving the highest technical scores a female figure skater had ever received at this point in time, the begining of what could have been a long lasting, financially secure and satisfying career, like the one that Kerrigan has gone on to have.


American Fan art, signed ‘Bertars’, the scandal was a real life sitcom for the American public and has been spoofed and referenced in many TV shows and films over the years, including Seinfeld and even Barack Obama mentioned it in his campaign trail.


Tonya with Jeff Gillooly during the period in which she had returned to him and the abusive relationship, heavily persuaded by high up members of the USFSA to ’strengthen her chance of wining Gold’ because she would appear much better of in ‘a stable loving marriage’ then divorced.


Her 2003/2005 boxing career.


By Ami Hughes

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