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Tonya Harding

Tonya Harding (born Tonya Maxene Harding on November 12, 1970 in Portland, Oregon; now Tonya Price) is a former American figure skater.

She is notorious for her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly orchestrating an attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan and plead guilty to hindering prosecution which resulted in her being banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association for life.

Prior to the controversy, Tonya 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 only the second woman to ever do so in history (behind Midori Ito).

Tonya is also a two-time Olympian and a two-time Skate America Champion.

CareerEdit

Tonya began skating at the age of 3 and throughout her youth, she trained 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 winning Skate America in 1989, Tonya was considered a strong contender at the 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but she suffered from the flu & asthma and had a poor free skate. After the original program, she dropped from second place and finished seventh overall.

Tonya's breakthrough year came in 1991 when she landed her first triple axel at the U.S. Championships and won the title with the event's first 6.0 ever given to a single female skater for technical merit.

At the 1991 World Championships, she again completed the triple axel, becoming the first American woman to perform it at an international event

Tonya would finish second behind Kristi Yamaguchi and in front of Nancy Kerrigan, making it the first time one country swept the ladies medal podium at the World Figure Skating Championships.

At the Fall 1991 Skate America, Tonya 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 combination with the double toe loop.

Despite these record-breaking performances, Tonya was never able to successfully perform the triple axel in a competition after 1991 and her competitive results began declining as a result.

Tonya trained under Dody Teachman for the upcoming 1992 season and placed third in the U.S. Championships after twisting her ankle in practice. She finished fourth in the 1992 Winter Olympics and placed sixth in the 1992 World Championships.

In the 1993 season, she skated poorly in the U.S. Championships and failed to qualify for the World Championship team.

Following legal controversy, Tonya 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 her laces, she was given a re-skate in the long program and finished in eighth place, far behind Oksana Baiul (gold) and Nancy Kerrigan (silver).

The Nancy Kerrigan IncidentEdit

On January 6, 1994, Tonya's main team competitor Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after a practice session at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan by an assailant, later identified as Shane Stant.

Her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her self-appointed bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt hired Stant to break Nancy's right leg so that she would be unable to compete at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.

After failing to find Nancy at her training rink in Massachusetts, Stant followed her to Detroit.

When Nancy stepped off the ice after a practice session at Cobo Arena and walked behind a nearby curtain into a corridor, Stant struck her leg about 1 inch (3 cm) above the knee with a 21-inch (53 cm) ASP telescopic baton; her leg was only bruised, not broken, but the injury forced Nancy to withdraw from the national championship.

Tonya won that event, and she and Nancy were both selected for the 1994 Olympic team; she finished eighth in Lillehammer while Nancy (who had recovered from the injury) won the silver medal behind Oksana Baiul from Ukraine.

The attack on Nancy Kerrigan and the news of Tonya's alleged involvement led to a media frenzy, with The New York Times later characterizing it as "one of the biggest scandals in American sports history."

Nancy appeared on the cover of both TIME and Newsweek magazines in January 1994.

Reporters and TV news crews attended Harding's practices in Portland and camped out in front of Kerrigan's home.

CBS assigned Connie Chung to follow her every move in Lillehammer.

Four hundred members of the press jammed into the practice rink in Norway.

Scott Hamilton complained that "the world press was turning the Olympics into just another sensational tabloid event."

The tape-delayed broadcast of the women's short program at the Olympics remains one of the most watched telecasts in American history.

On February 1, 1994, Jeff Gillooly accepted a plea offer in exchange for his testimony against Harding. Gillooly, Shane Stant, Shawn Eckhardt and getaway car driver Derrick Smith all served time in prison for the attack.

Shawn Eckhardt was sentenced to 18 months in prison for racketeering, but he was released four months early in September of 1995. After being released from prison, he legally changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith and died in December of 2007 at the age of 40.

Tonya was charged in Multnomah County, Oregon, but she avoided further prosecution and a possible jail sentence by pleading guilty on March 16, 1994 to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers. She received three years' probation, 500 hours of community service and a $100,000 fine.

As part of the plea bargain, she was also forced to withdraw from the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships and resign from the United States Figure Skating Association.

The USFSA conducted its own investigation of the attack and on June 30, 1994, the association stripped Tonya of her 1994 U.S. Championships title and banned her for life from participating in USFSA-run events as either a skater or a coach.

The USFSA concluded that Tonya knew about the attack before it happened and displayed "a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship, and ethical behavior."

Although the USFSA has no control over non-competitive professional skating events, Tonya was also persona non grata on the pro circuit because few skaters and promoters would work with her. Consequently, she failed to benefit from the boom in professional skating that ensued in the aftermath of the scandal.

In her 2008 autobiography, "The Tonya Tapes", Tonya stated that she wanted to call the FBI to reveal what she knew about Nancy's attack, but she decided not to when Jeff Gillooly allegedly threatened her with death following a gunpoint gang rape by him & two other men she did not know.

Gillooly subsequently changed his name to Jeff Stone and called Tonya's accusations of gang rape "utterly ridiculous."

ProgramsEdit

Competitive HighlightsEdit

International
Event 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
U.S. Olympic Festival 2nd
Prize of Moscow News 1st
National
U.S. Championships 6th 5th 5th 3rd 7th 1st 3rd 4th (no-champion)
  • (Note: In June of 1994, Claire Ferguson, the President of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, voted to strip Tonya 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).

Medal RecordEdit

World Championships

  • Silver medal: second place (1991 Munich)

Personal LifeEdit

Tonya was born to parents LaVona Golden and Albert Gordon Harding. She was raised in East Portland, Oregon. During her youth, she hunted, drag raced, and learned automotive mechanics from her father.

LaVona struggled to support the family while working as a waitress and hand-sewed Tonya's competition skating costumes because the family couldn't afford to purchase them.

According to Tonya, she was frequently abused by her mother, stating 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 Tonya at an ice rink.

During her sophomore year of high school, Tonya dropped out of Milwaukie High School to focus on skating; she later earned a General Equivalency Diploma.

In 1990, Tonya married Jeff Gillooly when she was 19 years old; they divorced in 1993, but continued to see each other heading into the 1994 Winter Olympics. In 1994, an explicit video of them having sex with was sold by Gillooly to a tabloid TV show after he was implicated as a conspirator in the Nancy Kerrigan attack. The tape would be released later that year.

In 1995, she married her second husband, Michael Smith, but they divorced a year later in 1996.

On June 23, 2010, she married her third husband, Joseph Price and gave birth to her first child, a son named Gordon on February 19, 2011.

From 2003 to 2004, Tonya participated in women's professional boxing where her overall record was 3 wins and 3 losses.

Since leaving ice skating and boxing, Tonya has worked as a welder, a painter at a metal fabrication company and as a hardware sales clerk at Sears. As of 2017, she stated that she has worked as a painter and deck builder.

These days, she resides in Washington state (north of her hometown of Portland, Oregon).

On February 26, 2018 while appearing on "The Ellen Degeneres Show", Tonya has stated that she is still active in skating and practices three times a week.

In April of 2018, Tonya was announced as one of the celebrities who will compete on season 26 of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." She is partnered with professional dancer Sasha Farber.