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Who Is Tonya Harding? The Life Behind Upcoming Film, ‘I Tonya’

by: Marie Claire |

5 December, 2017

Tonya Harding


Tonya Harding now lives a relatively quiet life, but she was once embroiled in the biggest scandal ever to hit the figure-skating world.

The scandal has now inspired an upcoming movie starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding. I Tonya , out next year, tracks Tonya’s early life and skating career, and the explosive relationships that plagued – and eventually destroyed – her career. But who is the real Tonya Harding, and where is Tonya Harding now?

Who is Tonya Harding?

Tonya Harding, now 47, was born in Portland, Oregon in 1970. Her parents split up when she was a child and she was raised alone by her mother, LaVona. Their relationship was strained and Tonya claims LaVona emotionally and physically abused her. In a TV interview LaVona did admit to hitting Tonya once, but rejected her claim that she was routinely abusive.

In 1991, Tonya Harding became the first woman to perform a triple axel in the short programme, and the first woman to execute two triple axels in a single competition, in the US Championships and the 1991 Championships. However, she was never able to complete a triple axel in a competition again. In the 1992 Winter Olympics, she narrowly missed out on a medal, coming in fourth place. At the US Championships, she finished sixth.

What happened between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding?

On 6 January 1994, figure skater and Tonya Harding’s US team competitor Nancy Kerrigan was walking through the corridors of the Cobo Arena after a practice session when Shane Stant walked past her and clubbed her on the knee. The incident was caught on camera by a news crew, and Nancy could be seen crying ‘why why why?’ The bruising to her knee meant she was unable to compete in the US Figure Skating Championships, which took place soon after and which Tonya won.

After an FBI investigation, it emerged that Shane Stant had been hired by Tonya’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt to break Nancy’s knee so she would be unable to compete. The investigation was in tandem with the build-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, which both Nancy (who had time to recover) and Tonya were due to skate in.

The press attention surrounding the event was huge. Tonya finished eighth after trouble with her laces, while Nancy took the silver medal.

Tonya’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly accepted a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Tonya. He, Shane Stant and Shawn Eckhardt each served time in prison for their parts in planning and executing the attack. After pleading guilty to conspiracy, Tonya escaped jail but was banned from professional skating for life.

‘She’ll never be remembered for how wonderful a figure skater she was,’ said Jeff Gillooly in an interview for a 2014 ESPN documentary. ‘She’ll be remembered for what I talked her into doing.’

Where is Tonya Harding now?

Tonya Harding now lives a relatively quiet life in Oregon, married to her third husband Joseph Jens Price, with whom she has a son named Gordon.

But the years after her 1994 ban from skating were not without drama. Perhaps driven by financial need, among other things, she and Jeff Gillooly sold a sex tape from their wedding night to Penthouse for $200 000, and in the early Noughties Tonya had a short-lived boxing career. In 2014, she appeared in an ESPN documentary about the 1994 scandal, called The Price Of Gold.

Actress Allison Janney – who is tipped for an Oscar nomination for her role as Tonya’s mother LaVona in the film – says Tonya was in touch with the writers of I, Tonya throughout the filming process. She is rumoured to have taken up skating again.

Where is Nancy Kerrigan now?

Nancy Kerrigan is now 48 and a married mother of three. She recently appeared as a contestant on the US version of StrictlyDancing With The Stars, making it to the seventh week of the competition.

In an interview earlier this year, Nancy says she never got a direct apology from Tonya for what happened in 1994, though added, ‘Does it matter at this point?’

Unlike Tonya, who was ejected from the sport in disgrace, Nancy has bronze and silver Olympic medals and has been inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall Of Fame. Nancy Kerrigan’s net worth is reported to be around $8 million.

Via Marie Claire UK

 



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