Television
ESPN Retells Harding, Kerrigan Scandal
By Rudy Martinez
Jan 21, 2014 - 9:08:53 AM

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Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan during a skating practice.
LOS ANGELES—Nannett Burstein, the director of such shows as “New Girl” and “The Carrie Diaries” has debuted with her second sports documentary on the subject of one of the most infamous moments in women’s sports. The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled “The Price of Gold” retells the bizarre events on the attack of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan in the words of Tonya Harding, the fellow skater who became the most hated in sports.

 

The program follows the early life of Tonya Harding during her childhood in rural Oregon. She had an abusive mother, which didn’t help her becoming an elite figure skater with a bright future. Harding was considered an up and coming star to help the United States capture Olympic medals in future Winter Games. However, the United States Figure Skating Association had their end stacked with top athletes like Kristi Yamaguchi and Harding’s rival, Nancy Kerrigan.

 

Harding topped Kerrigan at the 1991 U.S. Championships, but didn’t perform well in the 1992 Winter Games finishing fourth. Her competition fared better taking home the silver medal with Yamaguchi winning gold. It led to big things for Kerrigan in terms of endorsements and public attention that certain individuals in the Harding camp were displeased with.

 

The displeasure turned into what many call a conspiracy theory in the sports world as Harding’s first husband Jeff Gillooly, Shane Stant and Shawn Ekardt were charged with playing a role in the assault of Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 U.S. Championships in Detroit. On January 6, 1994 prior to a practice session at Cobo Arena, Kerrigan was hit with a police baton in the right knee by an unknown assailant at the time. The aftermath of the attack went out live to viewers across the world watching Kerrigan writhe in pain giving her enormous sympathy and causing a question that Kerrigan made famous asking, “Why?”

 

With the Lillehammer Games of 1994 approaching, Harding was desperately training at a local mall’s skating rink with no real privacy or time to gain focus. It was said that the injury on Kerrigan would improve Harding’s chances of securing not only a spot on the Olympic team, but a chance at her first Olympic medal.  It was later concluded that Stant was the man responsible for injuring Kerrigan and with his ties to Tonya Harding the world’s media turned their attention to her for answers.

 

After seven weeks of constant harassments from reporters and numerous interviews with the likes of Connie Chung and Diane Sawyer, the stance of Harding’s non-involvement held by a thread with figure skating taking center stage. Kerrigan would hold on to her grasp of public attention after recovering from her injuries to give one of the best performances in Olympic figure skating history. Harding’s constant spotlight into her life and little time for private practices left her with a terrible showing in the long program. Harding most famously pleaded with judges with an issue involving her skates leading some to believe that she was buying for more time to get her nerves in check.

 

It didn’t help as her performance grew worse leaving her with an eighth place finish. The repercussions of the attack rattled through the Olympics with judges expressing feelings that all the attention on the two athletes put a bad light on the Olympic spirit as a whole. It led to them awarding the gold medal to Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul who some believed didn’t perform better than Kerrigan.

 

After the Olympics were concluded Harding came back to the United States and pled guilty for hindering prosecution and received three years’ probation and over $100,000 in fines. It was the final piece to break that sent Harding’s career toppling.

 

The documentary itself presents a story focusing on Harding. Kerrigan chose not to be part of the film. Her former coach, husband and friends gave their personal stories of the history and aftermath of the attack. Overall the documentary had its engaging and strong opinions from Chung, Tony Kornheiser and figure skating stars Scott Hamilton and Paul Wylie. The bizarre story of the Kerrigan attack became renewed in our minds from 20 years past, where questions are still unanswered in the biggest scandal of Olympic sports history.



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