Harding and Kerrigan 10 Years Later

ByABC News via via logo

Jan. 10, 2004 -- A decade ago this week, when Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan sobbed, "Why me?," it was a cry heard around the world.

On Jan. 6, 1994, the day before Kerrigan was to defend her U.S. figure skating title in Detroit, she stopped to talk with reporters in a hallway next to the ice rink when the unthinkable happened. An unknown assailant ran past the 24-year-old skater, delivering a devastating blow to her knee with a metal baton.

It was an attack that would send shock waves through the Olympic community and forever link an unlikely pair: Kerrigan, the elegant ice princess from a middle-class Massachusetts community, and her chief rival, Tonya Harding, who had honed her tougher, more muscular routines in the working-class ice rinks around Portland, Ore.

Kerrigan was a 1992 Olympic bronze medalist and one of the favorites to win the gold medal at the '94 Winter Olympics. Before the assault on Kerrigan, rival Harding had some tough words for her.

"It's not going to be a true crown until I get at Nancy down at the Olympics, and let me tell you, I'm going to whip her butt," Harding, then 23, told reporters.

Pointing Fingers at Harding

The vicious physical attack on Kerrigan sparked outrage and a media frenzy that only increased as investigators began to look at Harding.

The Feb. 23, 1994, showdown between Kerrigan and Harding in the Lillehammer Olympics in Norway ended up being the third most-watched sports broadcast of all time.

Harding had a poor showing in Lillehammer, finishing eighth. Meanwhile, Kerrigan — fully recovered — skated almost flawlessly, and went from victim to victor, earning a silver medal. Some, however, felt that Kerrigan might have gotten the gold if she had not been attacked.

Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and three others later admitted to carrying out the attack on Kerrigan and cut a deal with prosecutors. Harding denied any involvement.

"I feel really bad for what happened, I feel really fortunate it wasn't me," Harding said at a news conference.

What Did She Know?

But Gillooly told FBI investigators that Harding had been behind it from the beginning. Co-conspirator Shawn Eckardt also alleged Harding knew about the attack in an exclusive interview with ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer that aired Jan. 20, 1994, on Primetime Live.

"She knew that it was — that it had been initiated," Eckardt said. "She knew that it was going to take place."

Harding did accept a plea bargain on a charge of hindering the prosecution and was sentenced to three years probation. She says she only learned of the attack after it happened — and then kept quiet about it out of fear. Harding was forced to resign her U.S. Figure Skating Association Membership and was stripped of her 1994 national title.

After serving time in prison, Gillooly changed his name to Jeff Stone. He was subsequently arrested on charges stemming from a domestic dispute.

Former Rivals Worlds Apart

Ten years later, the two former figure skaters are worlds apart.

Kerrigan, 34, is now married to her agent, Jerry Solomon, and is involved in a number of television and charitable programs in addition to raising their 7-year old son.

For Harding, also 34, the road has been rocky since her skating days. In 2001, she spent three days in jail for hitting her boyfriend with a hubcap during a drunken argument. In January 2002, a Washington state judge evicted her from home after she failed to pay $4,350 in rent and late fees.

But she has since found a new sport that has moved her from the rink to the boxing ring. In February 2003, millions of viewers tuned in to Fox TV's Celebrity Boxing special to watch Harding pummel Paula Jones, the woman who filed a sexual harassment suit against President Clinton. Harding has since become a professional boxer, with a record that stands at 3-2. Her sixth match is set to take place Jan. 24 in the Bank of America Centre, a large venue in Boise, Idaho.

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