Harding and Kerrigan 10 Years Later

ByABC News via logo
January 5, 2004, 3:27 PM

Jan. 10 -- 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.