Monday, June 8, 2009

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding

Just think, kids growing up today will think a photo of Michael Phelps with a bong constitutes a legitimate full-blown Olympic athlete scandal.


In the 90s, Olympic athletes did scandals right. It was an all-or-nothing type of game. They weren't playing around. In fact, it wasn't even necessary to try to sabotage rival athletes, what, with so much prime competition on your home court.

In 1994, the world of US Olympic figure skaters became embroiled in a vicious battle between teammates. I know, I know. Olympic figure skating? Those girls in the sequined spandex? They seem so friendly, their bleached smiles so genuine. Unfortunately, beneath the happy veneer of the US women's team lurked a dark and dangerous tension.

Nancy Kerrigan had quickly become America's golden girl--she was young, pretty, poised and talented. She had all the makings of a perfect All-American Wheatie's box photograph. Americans couldn't seem to get enough of the up-and-coming skater, and she appeared destined for Olympic success.

Not everyone was so happy about the Kerrigan hype, though. Fellow US Olympic skater Tonya Harding was obviously displeased with playing second banana to Nancy. Looking back, it's frightening they let this maniacal fame-crazy sociopath skate around with the equivalent of twp frequently sharpened switchblades affixed to her feet. I'm not sure if you've ever been jumped by someone using an ice skate as a weapon, but they're not kidding around with those toe picks.

Tonya was certainly talented and was not without her admirers. Harding was the first female skater to successfully execute a triple axel during competition. She was, however, a perpetual self-fulfilling prophecy of eternal victimhood. She and her devotees felt that there was a definite favoritism for Kerrigan over Harding, and some Harding-ites went so far as to suggest it was because Harding was from less affluent background. However, as Kerrigan herself came from a blue-collar background, this seemed like a fairly faulty argument. Whatever the reason, a seething rivalry brewed between the two US Olympic teammates.

The tension came to a head just before the 1994 Olympics. Kerrigan was mysteriously attacked by an unknown assailant. The attack was well-honed and deliberate, injuring her knee. The intent was clearly to hinder her skating ability, though few people could fathom why someone would do such a thing.

Of course, the whole thing (conveniently excluding the attack itself) was caught on film and played on continuous loop on news stations worldwide. Kerrigan's cries of "Why me?" were frequently (if perhaps a bit cruelly) mocked in the coming months.

Henceforth referred to as "The Whack Heard Round the World" (or my personal favorite, "The Battle of Wounded Knee II) the incident actually had a secondary impact of majorly boosting the interest and ratings in Olympic figure skating. People were quick to point fingers at Tonya Harding, who seemed notably unshaken by the incident.

Harding's ex husband, along with a few sketchy co-conspirators, were the culprits behind the attack, though it took months to unravel the whole story. This obviously did not bode well for Tonya's already waning image, and though she was (just barely) allowed to compete in the '94 winter Olympics, she finished an embarrassing eighth to Nancy Kerrigan's second.

Luckily, there seemed to be some karma at play. Kerrigan got to keep skating and maintained her place as a national hero (with a few minor scandal blips along the way) and Tonya struggled to live off of milking her notoriety for the next 15 years. She did all sorts of embarrassing things for a quick buck, most ridiculously competing in Celebrity Boxing. Now, you would possibly think that someone trying to adjust their image would play to the crowds and try to lay low and strive for a gracious, demure public image.

You would be wrong.

Better yet, as if her F-list status could not be carved any more deeply in stone, she boxed Paula Jones. Two crazy chicks vying for attention and public sympathy, and here they are duking it out on a terrible reality show.

Harding was also recently a guest on Oprah and opens up about, well, all sorts of crazy. It's hilariously obvious that the Big O doesn't believe a word of Tonya's sob story.

Good one, Tons. You really cleared that up. Because you like to hunt and fish and sit around the bonfire with friends, you...are justifying what, exactly? It's too bad she can't afford a publicist to properly train her for this interview, because she comes across absolutely sociopathic. All this proves is that not only is Tonya a terrible liar, but is also likely dumber than a box of rocks.

As if all that weren't enough, she also made quite a ruckus over Obama referencing her during his campaign, when he remarked "Folks said there's no way Obama has a chance unless he goes and kneecaps the person ahead of us, does a Tonya Harding." Geez, between referencing Tonya Harding's KneeGate and Jessica Simpson's weight gain, Obama certainly is adept at planting seeds of publicity for washed-up celebrities.

But I digress. The moral (immoral, really) of the story is that if you find yourself the second choice for America's love and affection, you can always call out a personal favor for someone to go and bust their kneecaps. It's just that easy! You could pair it with a catchy tagline, like, "Bustin' kneecaps--not just for the mob!"

Hey, that's not half bad. Wasn't I just saying Tonya needs a publicist...?


Lauren From Texas said...

I totally remember this. And sometimes have nightmares of Tonya Harding.

courtney said...

I saw the Oprah with her on...time has not been kind of Tonya. I also had a strange feeling Oprah was restraining herself from laughing in Tonya's face at several points in the interview.

LWLH said...

I remember this...silly Tonya Harding!

Teach.Workout.Love said...

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i used to watching in living color on a black and white tv on really low bc i wasnt supposed to watch it cuz it was adult or something hahahha and they had all the spoofs on that... hahah so funny!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there also a sex tape featuring Tonya?

Little Ms Blogger said...

I forgot about the boxing match and I loved how Tanya wanted to divert the interview with Oprah.

I don't know why she'd even think O would be interested in anything other than that incident.

Tanya was just a tad weird for me during that interview & changed the channel...

Sally-Sal said...

I loved the picture, and the way Tonya is sharkin' up on Kerrigan

Sadako said...

I remember this! And the Simpsons where Moe attacks Mr. Burns a la Tonya. Heh!!

rachaelgking said...

The best was when it was far enough in the past that we could starting making fun of it on SNL and such. That NEVER gets old.

Stacie said...

I will say that we made up a song about this incident in middle school. It was to the tune of "Can you Feel the Love Tonight," but in our version, it was, "Can you feel the Club tonight."

Awesome Sara said...

if i was ever in a fight, i want tanya on my team. i love her bc she is such a crazy crazy mess!

Anonymous said...

I think this is the first news drama I actually followed. It was teen competition/ridiculousness at its finest.

Unknown said...

This was basically the only drama that went on in the 90's. How nice, haha.

Katie said...

O.M.G. That was some serious skating drama. I remember Kerrigan screaming..."My knee! My knee!" and crying. It's too bad that neither one of them are remembered for their actual skating talents.

Aline said...

this was so huge....I totally remember this. so hilarious that she went onto the boxing...what a joke.

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