Friday, January 3, 2014

The Strangest Olympic Story of Them All: 20 Years Later

Has it been that long?  It seems like it was only yesterday.

For those of you who weren’t around at the time because you weren’t born yet or were too young to remember, there was never a show at any Olympics like the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding Soap Opera Ice Capades.

Let me refresh your memory somewhat.  Or maybe I’ll let Wackopedia refresh it for you:

Harding became notorious in conjunction with the January 6, 1994 attack on her competitor Nancy Kerrigan. The widely publicized attack took place during a practice session on the eve of the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, hired Shane Stant to break Kerrigan's right leg so that she would be unable to skate. Stant followed her to Detroit after failing to find her at her training rink in Massachusetts, and struck her on the thigh a few inches above the knee with an ASP baton.  Her leg was only bruised, not broken, but the injury forced her to withdraw from the national championship. Harding won that event, and they both were selected for the 1994 Olympic team.


So what was the aftermath of all this.  Harding’s husband, Jeff Gillooly, Eckhardt, and Stant all did prison time.  Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy, did hundreds of hours of community do-gooder type work, paid a hefty fine, and was kicked out of amateur skating forever.  Bye bye, Miss America Skating Pie. 

From Wackopedia:

Harding avoided further prosecution and a possible jail sentence by pleading guilty on March 16 to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers. She received three years probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine. As part of the plea bargain, she was also forced to withdraw from the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships and resign from the USFSA.  

On June 30, 1994, after conducting its own investigation of the attack, the USFSA stripped her of her 1994 U.S. Championships title and banned her for life from participating in USFSA-run events as either a skater or a coach. The USFSA concluded that she knew about the attack before it happened and displayed "a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship and ethical behavior". Although the USFSA has no control over professional skating events, she was also persona non grata on the pro circuit because few skaters and promoters would work with her. Consequently, she failed to benefit from the pro skating boom that ensued in the aftermath of the scandal.

In her 2008 autobiography, The Tonya Tapes, she said that she wanted to call the FBI to reveal what she knew, but refused when Gillooly allegedly threatened her with death following a gunpoint gang rape by him and two other men she did not know. He subsequently changed his name to Jeff Stone and called the allegations "utterly ridiculous". Eckhardt, who legally changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith following his release from jail, died of natural causes at age 40 on December 12, 2007. 

So how are Figure Skatings dynamic duo doing these days. This USA reporter went to find out.

"I really don't look back unless someone asks me to look back, and then I have to," Kerrigan, who won two Olympic figure skating medals, told USA TODAY Sports in a recent telephone interview. "Otherwise, why would I? I was attacked."

"It was 20 years ago and I don't remember lots and lots of it," Harding said in a phone interview this week. "I know it was a horrible time for everyone involved. It was a bad streak, going through all the crud, and I was able to rise above it. I think Nancy and I have good lives now."

Harding's knowledge of how Kerrigan is doing is not based on a mended relationship. Asked if she has seen or spoken with Harding, Kerrigan says, "Never. No. For what?

As for the rest of the story let me be your guide:

Gillooly got his revenge on Harding  by selling an explicit video tape to Penthouse Magazine of him and Tonya doing the nasty on their wedding night.

Gillooly and Harding  divorced, and after completing his sentence, Jeff being a big fan of The Donna Reed Show legally changed his last name to Stone.  I’m not sure how Paul Peterson felt about that.

Of course, we can’t let this story end without mentioning Kerrigan’s apperance at Disneyland, in a parade, with Mickey Mouse and the two million dollars she was paid for being there.

But before we start using the b-word in regards to Ms. Nancy, she does have an explanation for the above behavior.  It’s up to you whether you buy into it or not.  From Wackopedia:

Kerrigan then chose not to attend the closing ceremonies at the Olympics. Her agent claimed this was because Norwegian security advised her not to do so because of death threats that had been made against her, but this was later denied. Instead, she left Norway early to take part in a pre-arranged publicity parade at Walt Disney World, her $2 million sponsor. During the parade, she was caught on microphone saying to Mickey Mouse, "This is dumb. I hate it. This is the corniest thing I have ever done." She later claimed her remark was taken out of context: she was not commenting being in the parade, but because her agent insisted she wear her silver medal in the parade. She said showing off and bragging about her accomplishments was something that her parents always taught her not to do. She added that she had nothing against Disney or Mickey Mouse, and "Who could find fault with Mickey Mouse? He's the greatest mouse I've ever known.
See what you missed all you young whipper snappers? No Olympics in my memory have brought you more drama and intrigue than that. By the way, Kerrigan did go on to win the silver medal. A medal that in all fairness should have been gold except for the fact that having watched Kerrigan get whacked in Detroit, an East German Judge gave her a different kind of whacking.  But that’s another story, and just sprinkles on the cupcake.

And last but not least, there was this quickie NBC movie, available only from you neighborhood bootlegger.  Good luck.

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