Skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked - HISTORY
Year
1994

Skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked

Olympic hopeful Nancy Kerrigan is attacked at a Detroit ice rink following a practice session two days before the Olympic trials. A man hit Kerrigan with a club on the back of her knee, causing the figure skater to cry out in pain and bewilderment. When the full story emerged a week later, the nation became caught up in a real-life soap opera.

One of Kerrigan’s chief rivals for a place on the U.S. Figure Skating Team was Tonya Harding. In mid-December 1993, Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, approached Shawn Eckardt about somehow eliminating Kerrigan from the competition. Eckardt set up a meeting with Derrick Smith and Shane Stant, who agreed to injure Kerrigan for a fee.

On December 28, Stant went to Massachusetts, where Kerrigan was practicing. However, he couldn’t carry out the attack so he followed her to Detroit, where Smith met him. After hitting Kerrigan, Stant fled the ice rink in Smith’s getaway car. With Kerrigan unable to skate, Harding won the championship and a place at the 1994 Olympics.

On January 11, Derrick Smith confessed to FBI agents. Three days later, Stant surrendered and also confessed. Harding was questioned on January 18, but denied her involvement. She claimed that she would cut off any connection with Gillooly if he was responsible. The next day, Gillooly was charged with conspiracy to assault Kerrigan. Shortly after, he agreed to a deal in which he implicated Harding.

Harding then came forward, changing her story and admitting that she had learned of Gillooly’s role in the attack after the championships but did not inform authorities. Meanwhile, U.S. Olympic officials named Kerrigan and Harding to the team that would compete in Lillehammer, Norway. When the United States Olympic Committee began considering removing Harding from the team, she filed a lawsuit that successfully stopped this action.

At the Olympics, the competition between Harding and Kerrigan set ratings records. Harding’s performance was a drama in itself. She broke down crying after a lace on her skates broke. Even after being allowed a restart, Harding wasn’t able to pull herself together and finished eighth. Kerrigan took home the silver medal, and many thought she deserved the gold.

Back in the U.S., Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution of Kerrigan’s attackers. She was fined $100,000 and sentenced to probation and 500 hours of community service. Other than Gillooly’s testimony, there was never any further evidence of Harding’s knowledge of the plans before the attack. But Gillooly got revenge on Tonya by sinking to new tabloid depths, selling graphic photos of the couple having sex on their honeymoon.

Meanwhile, Harding wasn’t above trying to exploit the crime and her notoriety herself. However, an attempted movie career was dead in the water from the beginning. Kerrigan even succumbed to the temptation years later, appearing on a talk show with Harding to promote herself.

In 2003, about a year after fighting in a “celebrity boxing” event, Harding made her professional boxing debut.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Theodore Roosevelt dies

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, dies at Sagamore Hill, his estate overlooking New York’s Long Island Sound.A dynamic and energetic politician, Theodore Roosevelt is credited with creating the modern presidency. As a young Republican, Roosevelt held a ...read more

Nurmi breaks two world records

On January 6, 1925, Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi steps up to the starting line in New York’s Madison Square Garden in his first U.S. appearance. Anticipation for the moment had been building steadily since Nurmi’s arrival in America four weeks before, and it was ...read more

New Mexico joins the Union

On January 6, 1912, New Mexico is admitted into the United States as the 47th state.Spanish explorers passed through the area that would become New Mexico in the early 16th century, encountering the well-preserved remains of a 13th-century Pueblo civilization. Exaggerated rumors ...read more

Harold II crowned king of England

Following the death of Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwineson, head of the most powerful noble family in England, is crowned King Harold II. On his deathbed, Edward supposedly designated Harold the royal heir, but this claim was disputed by William, duke of Normandy and cousin ...read more

Morse demonstrates telegraph

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse’s telegraph system is demonstrated for the first time at the Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, New Jersey. The telegraph, a device which used electric impulses to transmit encoded messages over a wire, would eventually revolutionize ...read more

Phuoc Binh falls to the North Vietnamese

Phuoc Binh, the capital of Phuoc Long Province, about 60 miles north of Saigon, falls to the North Vietnamese. Phuoc Binh was the first provincial capital taken by the communists since the fall of Quang Tri on May 1, 1972.Two days later, the North Vietnamese took the last of the ...read more

Army drops charges of My Lai cover-up

The Army drops charges of an alleged cover-up in the My Lai massacre against four officers. After the charges were dropped, a total of 11 people had been cleared of responsibility during the My Lai trials.The trials were a result of action that occurred in March 1968. During the ...read more

Nancy Kerrigan attacked

The figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked after a practice session at Cobo Hall in Detroit on January 6, 1994, just one day before the U.S. National Championships and one month before the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, in which Kerrigan was a gold medal favorite.As ...read more

Mountain man Jedediah Smith is born

Jedediah Strong Smith, one of America’s greatest trapper-explorers, is born in Bainbridge, New York.Smith explored a stunningly large area of the Far West during his short life. He began his western voyages in 1822, when he joined the pioneering fur trader William Ashley on a ...read more

Blizzard of 1996 begins

On this day in 1996, snow begins falling in Washington, D.C., and up the Eastern seaboard, beginning a blizzard that kills 154 people and causes over $1 billion in damages before it ends.The Blizzard of 1996 began in typical fashion, as cold air from Canada pushed down and ...read more

Soviet Union announces troop reduction

The Soviet Union announces plans to cut the size of its standing army by 300,000 troops in the coming year. The reduction was part of a 1956 policy announced by Krushchev in anticipation of “peaceful coexistence” with the West, and an indication that Cold War relations between ...read more

Confederate General John Calvin Brown born

On this day in 1827, Confederate General John Calvin Brown is born in Giles County, Tennessee. Brown served in the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War, was wounded three times, and captured once.Brown was a prominent attorney in Pulaski, Tennessee, prior to the war. He opposed ...read more