Tonya Harding

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Tonya Harding
Tonya harding mac club 1994 by andrew parodi.jpeg
Harding at a Portland, Oregon reception shortly after the 1994 Winter Olympics
Personal information
Full nameTonya Maxene Price
Country represented United States
BornTonya Maxene Harding
(1970-11-12) November 12, 1970 (age 48)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Spouse(s)
  • Jeff Gillooly
    (m. 1990; div. 1993)
  • Michael Smith
    (m. 1995; div. 1996)
  • Joseph Price
    (m. 2010)
Height5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)
CoachDiane Rawlinson (1973–1989; 1992–1994)
Dody Teachman (1989–92)

Tonya Maxene Price (née Harding; born November 12, 1970) is a retired American figure skater.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Harding was raised primarily by her mother, who enrolled her in ice skating lessons beginning at age four. Harding would spend much of her early life training, eventually dropping out of high school to devote her time to the sport. After climbing the ranks in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships between 1986 and 1989, Harding won the 1989 Skate America competition. She was the 1991 and 1994 U.S. champion before being stripped of her 1994 title, and 1991 World silver medalist. In 1991, she earned distinction as being the first American woman to successfully land a triple Axel in competition, and the second woman to do so in history (behind Midori Ito). She is also a two-time Olympian and a two-time Skate America Champion.

In January 1994, Harding became embroiled in controversy when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on fellow US Olympian Nancy Kerrigan. After the 1994 Winter Olympics, Harding ultimately pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution on March 16 and was banned for life on June 30, 1994 from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

In the early 2000s, Harding competed as a professional boxer, and her life has been the subject of numerous films, documentaries, books, and academic studies. In 2014, two documentary television films about Harding's life and skating career (Nancy & Tonya and The Price of Gold) were aired within two months of each other — inspiring Steven Rogers to write the darkly comedic biographical film I, Tonya, released in 2017 and starring Margot Robbie as Harding. In 2018, she was a contestant on season 26 of Dancing with the Stars, finishing in third place.

Early life[edit]

Ice Chalet at Portland's Lloyd Center, where Harding began skating at age three

Tonya Maxene Harding was born on November 12, 1970, in Portland, Oregon, to LaVona Golden and Albert Gordon Harding (1933–2009).[1] She was raised in East Portland, and began skating at age three, training with coach Diane Rawlinson. During her youth, Harding also hunted, drag raced, and learned automotive mechanics from her father. LaVona struggled to support the family while working as a waitress, and hand-sewed her daughter's skating costumes as they could not afford to purchase them. Harding's parents divorced after 19 years of marriage in 1987, when she was 16 years old.[2] She later dropped out of Milwaukie High School during her sophomore year in order to focus on skating, and earned a General Equivalency Diploma.[3]

According to Harding, she was frequently abused by her mother. She stated that by the time she was seven years old, both physical and psychological abuse had become a regular part of her life. LaVona admitted to one instance of hitting Harding at an ice rink.[4] In January 2018, Harding's childhood friend and filmmaker, Sandra Luckow, spoke in defence of Harding's mother because she felt that the 2017 film I, Tonya stretched some truths about LaVona's character. Luckow said that although Harding's mother could be "egregious" towards her daughter, LaVona actually funded and appreciated Harding's skating lessons – and had "a huge amount of humanity."[5][6][7]

In Harding's 2008 authorized biography, The Tonya Tapes (written by Lynda D. Prouse from recorded interviews she had with Harding), she revealed she was the victim of acquaintance rape in 1991[8] and that her half-brother, Chris Davison, molested her on several occasions when she was a child. In 1986, Harding called the police after Davison had been sexually harassing and terrorizing her. He was arrested and spent a short time in prison. Harding claimed that her parents were in denial about Davison's behavior and told her not to press criminal charges against him. Davison was killed in a 1988 unsolved vehicular hit-and-run accident.[9][10] On May 3, 1994, during an interview with Rolonda Watts, Harding said that Chris Davison was the lone person in her life unworthy of forgiveness and "the only person I've ever hated."[11][12]

Skating career[edit]

Harding trained as a figure skater throughout her youth with coach Diane Rawlinson. In the mid-1980s, she began working her way up the competitive skating ladder. She placed sixth at the 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, fifth in 1987 and 1988, and third in 1989. After competing in the February 1989 Nationals Championship, Harding began training with Dody Teachman as her coach.[13][14] She then won the October 1989 Skate America competition,[15] and was considered a strong contender at the February 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. However, she was suffering from the flu and asthma and had a poor free skate. After the original program, she dropped from second place and finished seventh overall.[16] Harding was a powerful free skater and typically had lower placements in the compulsory figures.[17][18]

Harding's breakthrough year came in 1991 when, at the U.S. Championships, she completed her first triple Axel in competition on February 16 — the first American woman to execute the jump.[19] She won the 1991 U.S. Ladies' Singles title with the event's first 6.0 technical merit score since Janet Lynn's 1973 performance at the U.S. Championships.[17] At the March 1991 World Championships, an international event, she again completed the triple Axel. Harding would finish second behind Kristi Yamaguchi, and in front of Nancy Kerrigan, marking the first time one country swept the ladies medal podium at the World Figure Skating Championships.[20]

At the September 1991 Skate America competition, Harding recorded three more firsts:

  • The first woman to complete a triple Axel in the short program
  • The first woman to successfully execute two triple Axels in a single competition
  • The first ever to complete a triple Axel in combination (with the double toe loop)

Despite these record-breaking performances, after 1991, Harding was never able to successfully complete the triple Axel in competition again; her competitive results began to decline. She and Dody Teachman had briefly parted ways in April 1991, but had reunited in June;[10] Harding was still training under Teachman for the upcoming 1992 season. She placed third in the January 1992 U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite twisting her ankle during practice, and finished fourth in the February 1992 Winter Olympics. On March 1, 1992, Harding gave Teachman a summary dismissal and returned to Diane Rawlinson to be coached by her.[13][21] On March 29 Harding placed sixth in the 1992 World Championships, although she had a better placement at the November 1992 Skate Canada International event finishing fourth.[22][23] In the 1993 season, she skated poorly in the U.S. Championships and failed to qualify for the World Championship team.

In 1994, Harding won the U.S. Championships, but was later stripped of her title because of her involvement in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan was unable to participate in the U.S. Championships due to her injury. Despite the legal controversy,[24][25] Harding was permitted to remain a member of the U.S. ice skating team at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. After an issue with a broken skate lace, she was given a re-skate in the long program and finished in eighth place, far behind Oksana Baiul (gold) and Nancy Kerrigan (silver).[26]

Figure skating record[edit]

International
Event[27] 1985–86 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90 1990–91 1991–92 1992–93 1993–94
Winter Olympics 4th 8th
World Championships 2nd 6th
Skate America 2nd 1st 1st 3rd
Skate Canada International 4th
Nations Cup 1st
NHK Trophy 3rd 2nd 4th
Prize of Moscow News[28] 1st
National
U.S. Championships[29][30] 6th 5th 5th 3rd 7th 1st 3rd 4th 1st
U.S. Olympic Festival[30] 5th 2nd

^† In June 1994, Claire Ferguson, the President of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, voted to strip Harding of her 1994 title. However, the competition results were not changed and the title was left vacant rather than moving all the other competitors up one position.[31]

Attack on Nancy Kerrigan and aftermath[edit]

On January 6, 1994 (1994-01-06), one day before the U.S. Figure Skating Championship first Ladies' Singles competition, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after a practice session at the Detroit Cobo Arena. The assailant was Shane Stant, contracted to break her right leg.[32] Stant and his uncle, Derrick Smith, were hired for this assault by Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her one-time bodyguard, Shawn Eckardt.[33] After failing to find Kerrigan at her Massachusetts training rink, Stant had taken a 20-hour bus trip to Detroit.[34] Nancy Kerrigan was walking behind a curtain to a corridor when Stant rushed behind her. Using both hands, he then swung a 21-inch ASP telescopic baton at her right leg, striking her above the knee. The intent was preventing her competing in both the National Championships (Kerrigan was the defending 1993 U.S. Ladies' Champion) and the Winter Olympics. Kerrigan's leg was not broken but severely bruised, forcing her to withdraw from the Championships and forgo competing to retain the U.S. Ladies' title.[35] On January 8, Harding won the U.S. Ladies' Singles title; she and Kerrigan were then both selected for the 1994 Olympic team. On February 1, Gillooly's attorney negotiated a plea bargain in exchange for testimony regarding all involved parties in the attack. He was sentenced in July after publicly apologizing to Kerrigan – even though, he said, "any apology coming from me rings hollow."[36][37] Gillooly and Eckardt pleaded guilty to racketeering, Stant and Smith (who drove Stant in the getaway car and funneled money) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree assault — all served prison time.[38][39] Judge Donald Londer noted the attack could have injured Kerrigan more seriously.[40] On February 25, Harding finished eighth in the Olympics; Nancy Kerrigan, having recovered from her injury, won the Olympic silver medal behind Oksana Baiul from Ukraine. Eckardt was released from prison in September 1995 and changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith; he died at age 40 on December 12, 2007.[41]

Harding's practice sessions at Clackamas Town Center, in preparation for the 1994 Winter Olympics, were attended by thousands of spectators and dozens of reporters and film crews

On January 11, 1994, Ann Schatz interviewed Harding at the KOIN-TV station in Portland, Oregon. Schatz asked if she had considered whether someone she knew had planned to attack Nancy. Harding answered "I have definitely thought about it. No one controls my life but me...if there’s something in there that I don’t like, I’m going to change it."[42][43][44] Harding also confirmed she had spoken with FBI agents while in Detroit and again in Portland.[45] On January 13, Eckardt and Smith were arrested – Stant surrendered to an FBI office the next day.[46][47][48] On January 14, the USFSA made a statement regarding whether Eckardt's arrest affected Harding's place on the U.S. Olympic team: "we will deal only with the facts."[49] Harding and Gillooly's lawyers publicly confirmed the couple were in daily contact and cooperation with law enforcement.[50] On January 15, Harding and Gillooly spoke with reporters, but declined to comment about the investigation.[51] On January 16, Harding's attorney read a news conference statement on her behalf, denying involvement in Kerrigan's attack.[52] Harding left her home that evening to practice figure skating with her coaches, where she spoke with reporters and performed a triple Axel.[53]

On January 18, 1994, Harding submitted to questioning by the district attorney and FBI, with her lawyers.[54][55] She was interviewed for over 10 hours – 8 hours into the interview, her lawyer issued a statement announcing her separation from Jeff Gillooly: "I continue to believe that Jeff is innocent of any wrongdoing. I wish him nothing but the best."[56] Her full FBI transcript was press released on February 1. The Seattle Times reported the transcript stating that Harding had "changed her story well into a long interview...After hours of denying any involvement in trying to cover up the plot, an FBI agent finally 'told [her] that he knew she had lied to him, that he would tell her exactly how she had lied to him'."[57][58][59] In the transcript's final passage, Harding stated "I hope everyone understands. I'm telling on someone I really care about. I know now [Jeff] is involved. I'm sorry."[60][61] On January 19, Jeff Gillooly surrendered to the FBI.[62] On January 20, Diane Sawyer asked Harding on Primetime Live about the ongoing criminal investigation. Harding said she had done nothing wrong.[63] On January 27, it was reported that Gillooly had been testifying about the attack plot since January 26; possibly implicating Harding as having allegedly assisted. Harding's close friend, with whom she was living, spoke to reporters on her behalf: "[Tonya] was shocked, very hurt…She was believing in [Jeff], what he was saying."[64][65][66] Harding later held an 11am press-conference to read a prepared statement. She said she was sorry Nancy Kerrigan was attacked, that she respected Nancy, and claimed not to know in advance of the plot to disable her. Harding then publicly took responsibility "for failing to report things [about the planned assault] when I returned home from Nationals [on January 10]...my failure to immediately report this information is not a crime."[67][68] Many state laws including Oregon certify that the act of concealing criminal knowledge alone is not a crime.[69]

Nancy Kerrigan's attack had received a lot of publicity; news media crews had camped outside her home.[70] The story was on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, and TIME in January 1994.[71] There was now much speculation about Harding's own alleged involvement in the assault plot.[72][73][74][75][76] As they would be competing together again in the February Hamar Olympic Games, speculation soon reached a media frenzy.[77] Abby Haight and J.E. Vader, journalists for The Oregonian, wrote a biography of Harding called Fire on Ice, which included excerpts of her January 18 FBI interview.[78] News media began regularly attending Harding's Portland practices, and unwelcomely recorded footage of her on February 7, running barefoot to stop a tow truck from hauling her illegally parked pickup.[79] On February 10, Connie Chung interviewed Harding. When asked about Gillooly, Harding said "I never did anything to hurt [Jeff]. If I ever did anything, it was to stick up for him and protect him."[80] Chung also negotiated to fly on the same airplane with Harding to Oslo, leaving on February 15, and interviewed her again in Norway. Chung admitted she would not have travelled to Norway were it not for the scandal.[81][82] The media frenzy continued on February 17, when Nancy Kerrigan and Harding shared the ice at a practice session in the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre. Approximately 400 members of the press were there to document this practice.[83] Scott Hamilton believed the sport was depicted as a "tabloid event."[84] It was noted that Nancy Kerrigan chose to wear the same skating costume at the practice session that she was wearing on January 6.[85][86] Kerrigan later confirmed that her choice of dress that day was deliberate: "Humour is good, it's empowering."[87] The tape-delayed broadcast of the February 23 Ladies' Olympic technical program remains one of the most watched telecasts in American history.[88][89]

Figure skating competitions for the 1994 Winter Olympics were held in the CC Amfi, formerly known as the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre.

On February 5, 1994, the disciplinary panel of the U.S. Figure Skating Association stated that reasonable grounds existed to believe Harding had violated the sport's code of ethics.[90] Her admitted failure to report information about an assault on a fellow competitor, supported by her FBI interview transcripts, resulted in Harding being formally charged with "[making] false statements about her knowledge." The panel also recommended that she face a disciplinary hearing. Claire Ferguson, president of the USFSA, decided not to suspend Harding's membership before any hearing took place. If Harding had been suspended, she likely still would have competed at the Winter Olympics after filing an injunction on the USFSA and asserting her rights under the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.[91] Evidence examined by the panel included the testimonies of Stant and Smith, Harding and Gillooly's telephone records, and notes found in a Portland saloon trash receptacle on January 30.[92] Harding was given 30 days to respond.[93] On March 9, Judge Owen Panner granted her a requested halt on the 30-day deadline to delay her disciplinary hearing until June 27.[94][95][96] Meanwhile, Portland authorities stated the criminal investigation would conclude by March 21 with any indictments and a grand jury report to be made at that time.[97][98]

On March 16, 1994, Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution as a Class C felony offense at a Multnomah County court hearing. She and her lawyer, Robert Weaver, negotiated a plea bargain ensuring no further prosecution.[99] Judge Donald Londer conducted routine questioning to make certain Harding understood her agreement, that she was entering her plea "knowingly and voluntarily." Harding told Londer she was. Her plea admissions were knowing of the assault plot after the fact, settling on a cover story with Gillooly and Eckardt on January 10, witnessing payphone calls to Smith affirming the story on January 10 and 11, and lying to FBI with the story on January 18.[100][101] Law enforcement investigators had been following and videotaping the co-conspirators since January 10; they knew about the payphone calls.[102][36][103] Her penalties included 3 years of probation, $100,000 fine, and 500 hours community service. She agreed to reimburse Multnomah County $10,000 in legal expenses, undergo a psychiatric examination, and volunteered to give $50,000 to the Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) charity.[104] Oregon sentencing guidelines carried a max penalty of 5-years-prison for the offense.[105] Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, donated $25,000 toward Harding's legal fees.[106][107] She had also made approximately $600,000 from an Inside Edition deal.[108][109] Harding's plea conditions imposed her U.S. Figure Skating Assn resignation, necessitating her withdrawal from the World Championships (for which she was scheduled to leave tomorrow).[110] District attorney Norman Frink stated that if Harding had not agreed to the plea, "we would have proceeded with an indictment on all possible charges...punishment was taking away [skating] privilege."[111] Weaver said the plea agreement was satisfactory to Harding, partly because she avoided prison. Regarding trial concerns, he stated "we would have prevailed at trial."[98][112] An executive of the USFSA commented "[We] don't know if Tonya is innocent or guilty...if [she was involved before] the national championship."[113] On March 18, Claire Ferguson decided Harding's disciplinary hearing would still proceed in June. The USFSA's executive committee convened to discuss their position should Harding seek reinstatement and whether they might strip her of the 1994 National Championship title. Neither issue was decided at that time.[114]

Harding arriving at Portland International Airport amid a crush of reporters after the 1994 Olympics

On March 21, 1994, a Portland grand jury issued an indictment stating there was evidence Harding participated in the attack plot. The indictment concluded more than two months of investigation and witness testimonies from Diane Rawlinson, Erika Bakacs (Harding's choreographer), Eckardt's college instructor and classmates, and Vera Marano (a freelance figure skating writer in Philadelphia).[115][111][116][36] It stated there was evidence Harding fraudulently used USFSA provided skating monies to finance the assault. It also read that Harding, Gillooly, Eckardt, Smith, and Stant agreed to "knowingly cause physical injury...by means of a dangerous weapon." The grand jury foreman said the evidence inferred Harding as "involved from the beginning or very close." She was not charged in the indictment due to the terms of her March 16 plea agreement.[95][117] On June 29, the USFSA disciplinary panel met for nine hours over two days to consider Harding's alleged role in the attack.[118] On June 30, chairman William Hybl stated "By a preponderance of the evidence, the panel did conclude that she had prior knowledge and was involved prior to the incident. This is based on civil standards, not criminal standards...bank records, phone records – the way they came together to establish a case." The panel decided that pertinent FBI reports, court documents, and Harding's March 16 plea agreement presented "a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship, and ethical behaviour."[94] Harding chose neither to attend nor participate in the two-day hearing. Robert Weaver said the decision disappointed her but was not a surprise, and that she had not decided on an appeal.[31][119] Harding was stripped of the 1994 U.S. Championship title and banned for life from participating in USFSA events as either skater or coach. The USFSA has no dominion over professional skating events, yet Harding was also persona non grata on the pro circuit, few skaters and promoters would work with her. She did not benefit from the ensuing boom in professional skating after the scandal.[120]

Shortly before the 1998 Winter Olympics, the CBS and Fox news divisions re-examined the scandal for two televised special reports.[121][122] Harry Smith hosted the CBS special. He reported that Harding still held to her statement from her press-conference given on January 27, 1994: "I had no prior knowledge of the planned assault on Nancy Kerrigan." Smith then interviewed Kerrigan, asking how she responded to that statement. Nancy Kerrigan referred to transcripts she had read from Harding's FBI interview on January 18, 1994. After reading through the interrogation of that day, she concluded that "[Tonya] knew more than she admits."[123][116][124] The Fox special report was called Breaking the Ice: The Women of '94 Revisited, hosted by James Brown with interviews from Harding, Gillooly, and Kerrigan.[125] Jeff Gillooly (granted a name change to Jeff Stone in 1995)[126] said Harding's prison evasion did not anger him, and that he felt his own punishment was just. Stone reflected on Harding's position of "limited involvement" in Kerrigan's attack and speculated that a "guilty conscience" still troubled her. Brown then mediated a joint interview with both Kerrigan and Harding present. The two former competitors shared sincere desires for happy families and general well-wishes toward one other. Nancy Kerrigan said she hoped Harding could learn from past mistakes and "find happiness."[127] Harding said she was grateful to personally express remorse to Kerrigan again.[128]

In Harding's 2008 biography, The Tonya Tapes (transcribed by Lynda D. Prouse from recorded interviews), she stated that she wanted to call the FBI in 1994 to reveal what she knew, but decided not to when Gillooly allegedly threatened her with death following a gunpoint gang rape by him and two other men she did not know. Jeff (Gillooly) Stone responded with surprise that groundless claims against him could be published and specifically contended her gang rape accusation to be "utterly ridiculous."[129] In 2013, Deadspin sought Jeff Stone for an interview and he again defended himself from the gunpoint gang rape allegation. Yet he expressed regret that Harding is often "remembered for what I talked her into doing," meaning allegedly plotting to injure Nancy Kerrigan.[130][124][73][32][60][131] Stone admitted that his past stupidity was part of Harding's 1994 ruin and maintained that he still considered her a great figure skater. He also said "I've had it easy, compared to poor Tonya...she tends to be the butt of the joke. It's kind of sad to me."[132]

In 2014, Nancy Kerrigan addressed the scandal during a brief interview with sportscaster Bob Costas: "Whatever apology Tonya has given, I accept it. It's time for all us – I've always wished [Tonya] well – she has her own family, I have my family. It's time to make that our focus and move on with our lives."[133]

Later celebrity[edit]

On February 15, 1994, an explicit 1991 videotape clip of Harding topless was shown on A Current Affair; three still frames from this clip were also published in The Sun (a British tabloid newspaper).[134][135] The New York Post reported that Jeff Gillooly had supplied the videotaped fragment for an undisclosed sum of money.[136] On July 26, 1994, Penthouse magazine announced that its September issue would feature different stills of Harding and Gillooly having sex from the same extended videotape.[137] This 35-minute sex tape would also be copied and marketed exclusively by Penthouse.[138] Both Gillooly and Harding used the same agent to negotiate equal payment on the Penthouse sale.[139]

Harding in 2006

On June 22, 1994, in Portland, Oregon, Harding appeared on an AAA professional wrestling show as the manager for wrestling stable Los Gringos Locos. The night's performance included Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero.[140] A promotional musical event was unsuccessful when Harding and her band, the Golden Blades, were booed off the stage at their only performance, in 1995 in Portland, Oregon.[141][142]

In 1994, Harding was cast in a low-budget action film, Breakaway. The film was released in 1996.[143] On October 29, 1996, Harding received media attention after using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to help revive an 81-year-old woman, Alice Olson, who collapsed at a bar in Portland while playing video poker.[144]

Harding has also appeared on television, on the game show The Weakest Link: "15 Minutes of Fame Edition" in 2002 along with Kato Kaelin,[145] and in March 2008 became a commentator for TruTV's The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest....[146]

Boxing career[edit]

Tonya Harding
Statistics
Nickname(s)Bad Girl
Weight(s)
Height5 ft 1 in (155 cm)
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights6
Wins3
Wins by KO0
Losses3

In 2002, Harding boxed against Paula Jones on the Fox TV network Celebrity Boxing event, winning the fight. On February 22, 2003, she made her official women's professional boxing debut, losing a four-round split decision against Samantha Browning on the undercard of Mike Tyson vs. Clifford Etienne. Harding's boxing career came about amid rumors that she was having financial difficulties and needed to fight in the ring to earn money.[147] She did another celebrity boxing match, on The Man Show, and won against co-host Doug Stanhope. Stanhope later claimed on his podcast that the fight was fixed because Tonya Harding refused to "fight a man."[148]

On March 23, 2004, it was reported that she canceled a planned boxing match against Tracy Carlton in Oakland, California, because of an alleged death threat against her.[149]

On June 24, 2004, after reportedly not having boxed for over a year, she was beaten in a match in Edmonton, Alberta, by Amy Johnson. Fans reportedly booed her as she entered the ring and cheered wildly for Johnson when she won in the third round.[150]

Her boxing career was cut short by a physical condition she attributed to asthma.[151] Her overall record was 3 wins and 3 losses.

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
6 fights 3 wins 3 losses
By knockout 0 2
By decision 3 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location
6 Loss 3–3 Amy Johnson TKO 3 (4), 1:04 June 25, 2004 Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
5 Loss 3–2 Melissa Yanas TKO 1 (4), 1:13 August 2, 2003 Silver City Cabaret, Dallas, Texas, U.S.
4 Win 3–1 Emily Gosa UD 4 June 13, 2003 Chinook Winds Casino, Lincoln City, Oregon, U.S.
3 Win 2–1 Alejandra Lopez UD 4 March 28, 2003 Creek Nation Gaming Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
2 Win 1–1 Shannon Birmingham UD 4 March 15, 2003 Grand Casino, Gulfport, Mississippi, U.S.
1 Loss 0–1 Samantha Browning SD 4 February 22, 2003 The Pyramid, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.

Automobile racing land speed record[edit]

On August 12, 2009, Harding set a new land speed record for a vintage gas coupe with a speed of 97.177 mph (156.391 km/h; 43.442 m/s) driving a 1931 Ford Model A, named Lickity-Split, on the Bonneville Salt Flats.[152][153][154] Her setting of that land speed record was featured on an episode[which?] of TruTV Presents: World's Dumbest... that focused on "Record Breakers."

Dancing with the Stars[edit]

In April 2018, Harding was announced as one of the celebrities who would compete on season 26 of Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Sasha Farber. The couple reached the finals of the competition, where Harding finished in third place overall, behind Adam Rippon and Josh Norman.

Personal life[edit]

In September 1986, Harding began a relationship with 17-year-old Jeff Gillooly; they moved into a starter home together in 1988 when he worked in distribution at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.[155][156] They married on March 18, 1990, when she was 19 and he was 22. In January 1992, Harding told Terry Richard (a journalist for The Oregonian) "Jeff always put food on the table and a roof over my head. He paid for my skating for a couple of years. If it hadn't been for him during that time, I wouldn't have been skating."[157] On August 28, 1993, they were divorced[60][158] after a tumultuous marriage.[159][160][161][162][163][164] During the autumn of 1993, it was reported that Gillooly was working part-time managing Harding's career and taking real estate classes.[165][166][167] Harding and Gillooly had been continuing to see each other since early October 1993 and were sharing a rented chalet[168] together in Beavercreek, Oregon until the evening of January 18, 1994.[169][170][171][62][172]

She married her second husband, Michael Smith, in 1995; they divorced in 1996.[173] She married and took the surname of 42-year-old Joseph Price, whom she met at a local restaurant called Timbers, on June 23, 2010 when she was 39 years old. She gave birth to her only child, a son named Gordon, on February 19, 2011.[174]

Since leaving skating and boxing, Harding has worked as a welder, a painter at a metal fabrication company, and a hardware sales clerk at Sears.[175] As of 2017, she stated that she worked as a painter and deck builder.[176] She resides in Washington state, north of her hometown of Portland, Oregon.

On an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on February 26, 2018, Harding stated that she is still active in skating and practices three times a week. In a segment during the show, she performed several jumps and spins. She trains with her former coach, Dody Teachman.[177]

Cultural significance[edit]

Harding still receives criticism.[178][179][180][181][182][183] However, her life, career, and role in the Kerrigan attack have been widely referenced in popular culture; appearing in television, film, music, as well as a primary campaign speech by former President Barack Obama.[184] In 2014, Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen created the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding Museum in their Brooklyn, New York, apartment, dedicated to collecting and archiving memorabilia related to Harding and the incident.[185] Harkins and Olen stated in a 2017 interview that they had been captivated by Harding's life for years, citing it as "the most American story ever told."[186] A contemporaneous article published in Vogue also noted that Harding had developed a "cult following" in the years since her notoriety.[187]

Representation in other media[edit]

  • Sharp Edges (1986), filmmaker Sandra Luckow's senior-thesis project documentary for her Film studies major at Yale University. Luckow was Harding's childhood friend, and the documentary followed Harding and her coaches to Uniondale, New York as she competed in the February 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The film featured interviews with Harding, her mother and coaches, discussing her career in figure skating. Harding is a bold teenager, very assured of her skill on the ice. Her mother, LaVona, expresses discouragement with the "politics" of the sport, acts as a stern critic towards her daughter, yet is also confident in Tonya's abilities. Diane Rawlinson laments that although LaVona loves Tonya, LaVona is not providing enough positive reinforcement.[188]
  • Spunk: The Tonya Harding Story (1994), Comedy Central five-minute short film parody summarizing the scandal, estimated to have aired on February 25, 1994.[189] Tina Yothers portrayed Harding as perpetually misunderstood, but universally admired for her "spunk."
  • Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story (1994), NBC television film based on public domain material, premiered on April 30, 1994; directed by Larry Shaw and written by previous Edgar Award winner Phil Penningroth.[190] Alexandra Powers portrayed Harding and Heather Langenkamp portrayed Nancy Kerrigan. It featured a postmodern breaking of the fourth wall by having Dennis Boutsikaris play the film's screenwriter, addressing the audience over the course of the story. One of the last lines in the film was "We imprisoned [Tonya and Nancy] in images we use to sell newspapers, soup, and TV movies. They're victims of those that the media serve."[191]
  • National Lampoon's Attack of the 5′2" Women (1994),[192] a Showtime television film, released on August 21, 1994; directed by the U.S. Writers Guild Award-winning comedian Julie Brown. Brown spoofed Harding by portraying her in the first segment of the film, called "Tonya: The Battle of Wounded Knee," which Brown also wrote. Brown's original song for the segment, "Queen of the Ice," was nominated for a CableACE Award.[193][194]
  • In Living Color (1994 sketches), Carol Rosenthal portrayed Harding in "Tonya Harding for The Club" and Alexandra Wentworth played her in "Tonya Harding: Mark Jackson Free Throw"; first aired on February 3 and February 10, 1994 respectively.
  • "The Understudy (1995)": Seinfeld episode, alluded to Harding when Jerry's Broadway performer girlfriend takes the stage. She has a problem with her boot laces (as Harding encountered in the 1994 Olympics). Jerry's girlfriend performed only because the lead actress had an injury supposedly caused by hitman, George; originally aired on May 18, 1995.[195]
  • Harding and her role in the 1994 scandal were referenced in several songs, including "Headline News" by "Weird Al" Yankovic; "Queen of the Ice" by Julie Brown;[192] "Breakin' Knees Is Hard to Do" by Capitol Steps;[196] "5 Fingas of Death" by Diamond D; "Tonya's Twirls" by Loudon Wainwright III;[197] "Aunt Dot" by Lil' Kim; "Strange Clouds" by B.o.B; "Put Some Keys On That" by Lil Wayne;[198] "Tonya Harding" by Sufjan Stevens;[199] "Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea" by Fall Out Boy;[200] and "Tonya" by Brockhampton [201]
  • Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera (2006), novelist and playwright Elizabeth Searle collaborated with composer Abigail Al-Doory in May 2006 to create a chamber opera produced by Tufts University and directed by Meron Langsner. Described as a dark comedy, it premiered in Portland, Oregon in 2008.[202] It was also produced in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Searle said that she thought elements of the 1994 scandal reflected "life in America," and that she hoped the show would convey public sympathy towards Nancy Kerrigan, Jeff Gillooly, and Tonya Harding.[203][204]
  • The Price of Gold (2014) documentary directed by Nanette Burstein, part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, aired on January 16, 2014. The documentary explored some specifics of the criminal investigation involving Nancy Kerrigan's attack. Kerrigan herself could not be interviewed for The Price of Gold because of her contractual obligation to NBC's Nancy & Tonya (2014) documentary. Burstein stated she intended her documentary to be "predominantly about Tonya."[205] After the film was completed, Burstein said that she thought Harding was jealous of Kerrigan[206] and that "[Tonya] was an unreliable interview subject. A lot of things she said had to be left out because I didn't think they were truthful."[207]
  • Nancy & Tonya (2014), NBC documentary narrated by Olympics correspondent Mary Carillo (former tennis professional - 1977 French Open Grand Slam Mixed Doubles winner), aired on February 23, 2014. It included interviews, brief biographies of Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding, and close observations of their lives and careers before 1994.[208][209]
  • Tonya Harding: The Musical (2014), comedy-musical written by Jesse Esparza, with songs by Manny Hagopian, performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles.[210]
  • T. (2017) a play written by Dan Aibel, premiered in Chicago on May 25, 2017 at the American Theater Company; directed by Margot Bordelon with Harding portrayed by Leah Raidt. Mary Houlihan of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a mildly interesting take on a somewhat tired topic." She liked how the play explored issues of class and competition, as well as Raidt's performance – yet thought it lacked Harding's "edgy toughness." Houlihan also admired Kelli Simpkins' performance as "Joanne," Harding's coach. She praised Bordelon's direction for "[steering] the actors away from any broad, campy interpretation" and Aibel's writing for "deftly [capturing] the despicable side of the story."[211]
  • I, Tonya (2017), biographical black comedy film directed by Craig Gillespie with Margot Robbie playing Harding, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017.[212] It was theatrically released on December 8 to mostly positive reviews, yet it played in no more than 1,450 theatres in the United States and Canada.[213] Screenwriter Steven Rogers was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay BAFTA; he said he neither knew nor cared about Harding's alleged part in Nancy Kerrigan's attack, that the film was really about "things we tell ourselves in order to...live with ourselves...how we change the narrative, and then want that to be the narrative."[214][215] Gillespie was nominated for a Best Director AACTA; he said he believed Harding was guilty, but debated to what degree. Gillespie also said he wanted the film to convey "why [Tonya] is the way she is."[216] Robbie, who also produced the film, was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe (Comedy) and Academy Award. Robbie believed "[Tonya] was always seeking validation...It's tragic that she didn't get it."[217] Allison Janney played Harding's mother, LaVona, and won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Regarding Harding's alleged role in Kerrigan's attack, Janney said "I know [Tonya was] complicit, but...I have a lot more empathy for her than I did."[218] Janney also said, "I think LaVona was actually a very smart woman, very articulate...She was not messing around and didn't want [Tonya] distracted...She wanted [Tonya] to know that it was going to be hard work, and knowing her daughter needed to be told she couldn't do it in order to do it was LaVona's way of saying, 'I was there to inspire her.'"[219]

Academic assessment[edit]

Because Harding admitted to obstructing the investigation of Nancy Kerrigan's assault, her name is often first associated with the 1994 scandal. However, numerous academic essays have theorized additional reasons, particularly considering her national class culture and past figure skating membership, for Harding's perceived social stigmatization.[220]

In 1995, the book Women on Ice: Feminist Essays on the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle was published, containing numerous essays analyzing Harding's public image.[221] For example, Abigail Feder-Kane wrote that there existed "overdetermined femininity in Ladies' Figure Skating...femininity and athleticism are mutually exclusive concepts in American culture."[222] Sam Stoloff believed that, during the scandal, the media placed a greater emphasis on Harding's class rather than her gender (femininity). He noted how she was subjected to a "litany of vaguely pejorative or mocking expressions" associated with "low class" cultural attributes, sometimes due to Harding's personal interests and hobbies. Stoloff theorized that Harding represented an American social class that required interpretation ("the class Other") as he referenced the anthropological tone of Susan Orlean's 1994 essay "Figures in a Mall," written for The New Yorker.[223][168]

In academic Sarah Marshall's 2014 essay entitled "Remote Control: Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and the Spectacles of Female Power and Pain," she noted the pervasive role of the media in the 1994 scandal, particularly the manner in which Harding's life outside the realm of skating became publicly scrutinized: "Somehow, in the scandal's aftermath, the form of the Tonya-bash was able to alchemize even the most chilling details of Tonya's life into tabloid gold." Marshall also examined the role of Harding's "tomboy" persona in the context of figure skating. She theorized that Harding was rejected by the figure skating ethos because she did not conform – as Marshall believes many figure skaters including Nancy Kerrigan did – to appearing as "beautiful without being sexual, strong without being intimidating, and vulnerable without being weak."[220]

In Tyler Chase Knowles' 2016 honors thesis entitled "Taking Out the Trash: Middle Class Anxieties and The White Trash Menace," he extrapolated on a quotation made by Emma Gray in her 2014 HuffPost article. The quotation explored how Gray believed Harding was labelled "the skating world's perfect villain" due to her appearance, broken home, and impoverished background.[224] Knowles theorized that there also existed the socio-cultural personified "Defender" who also chose to reject Harding. He defined the "Defender" as a person or persons who sympathize(s) with the working poor, a group including the white underclass. The "Defender" would blame the plight of the poor on societal and economic factors, yet the "Defender" would continue to reinforce conventional values such as distinguishing the class border. Knowles argued that Harding did not belong in the "Defender's" approved category of "poor white" because she did not – in the opinion of the "Defender" – make enough effort, given her figure skating membership, to assimilate towards elite culture. The "Defender" wanted Tonya Harding to use her USFSA membership for social mobility, caring little whether she could prove herself to be among the best Olympic competitors.[225]

References[edit]

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Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "Rolling Stone Issue 686/687". Wolfgang's (Vault). Item #:RS686-687-MZ. Retrieved July 18, 2018.