This battle began in 1991 when Tonya Harding bested Nancy Kerrigan at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a performance that included a historic triple axel. Though arguably the more technically superior skater, Harding never matched the star power of Kerrigan, who landed lucrative endorsement deals and quickly became America’s sweetheart, according to Marie Claire.
Three years later, and just six weeks ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Harding and Kerrigan were in Detroit preparing for the U.S. National Championships and hoping to land a spot on Team USA. That’s when Kerrigan was attacked following a practice session by a baton-wielding mystery man who bashed her knee. The injury took Kerrigan out of the competition.
Kerrigan recovered from the attack and both women made the Olympic squad, although they delivered starkly different performances at the Games. Harding suffered the infamous “broken lace” incident, finishing in eighth place, while Kerrigan stunned and clinched the silver.
As for the infamous whack. The whole thing was determined to be a plot by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly; his friend, Shawn Eckhart; the attacker, Shane Stant; and possibly Harding herself. She has long denied any advance knowledge of the attack, though Harding did eventually plead guilty to “conspiring to hinder prosecution” by aiding in a cover-up.
Kerrigan hasn’t said much on the subject in recent years, except that she never got a “direct” apology. Harding has been more outspoken. “Enough apologizing,” she said during the 2018 ABC News special, Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story (via USA Today Sports) “She has her life. I have my life. We both have wonderful lives. That should be all that matters.”