NBC looks back and 'Nancy & Tonya' — and Tonya Harding still looks like a liar
Published: February 21, 2014 02:14PM
Updated: February 21, 2014 02:15PM
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Former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan takes a question from the media after a screening of a new documentary about the 1994 attack on her which will air the day of the 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Kerrigan has been reluctant to talk about rival Tony Harding’s ex-husband hiring a hit squad to take her out before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. She finally relented for a show that marks the 20-year anniversary of the incident, which thrust figure skating into the spotlight and spawned an international media frenzy. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Two decades ago, the biggest story at the Olympics - the biggest story in the world - was all about figure skating.
It was so ludicrous it seemed like bad fiction. The ex-husband of American figure skater Tonya Harding orchestrated a plot to attack and injure fellow American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Vince Gillooly - who had reconciled with Harding - hired a guy to club Kerrigan in the knee and knock her out of the U.S. championships and the Olympics.
The guy missed her knee, but injured Kerrigan badly enough that she couldn't compete in the U.S. championships - which Harding then won. But the plot was soon exposed and, while Gillooly claimed Harding was in on it, she threatened to sue the USFSA and was allowed to compete in the 2004 Lillehamer Games.
The night they skated, 126 million Americans watched on TV. Nearly half the households in America tuned in.
NBC relives all that on Sunday in ""Nancy & Tonya," which airs Sunday at 6 p.m. on Ch. 5.
Both women are interviewed. And Mary Carillo does a good job with each of them.
In the end, there are two inescapable conclusions:
First, Kerrigan comes off more sympathetically than, perhaps, she is remembered. Turns out the "ice princess" did not come from a background of privilege, as so many believed. And while she was perceived as being aloof and ungrateful, it was more about being shy and uncomfortable with all the attention.
Second, Harding comes off as, perhaps, less sympathetic than ever. If she's not lying, she's doing a very poor job of telling the truth.
And, as the documentary points out, there was evidence that she was involved with the plot to incapacitate Kerrigan.
At one point, she tells Carillo, "I proved my innocence."
When Carillo asks her how she did that, Harding can't come up with an answer.
Harding pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers. After an investigation, the USFSA banned her for life, concluding that she knew about the attack before it happened.
And yet Harding portrays herself as a victim. We see a clip of her supposedly apologizing to Kerrigan, but it's not an apology at all.
"Nancy & Tonya" is not just an indictment of Harding, however. What happened 20 years ago was a glimpse into what the media has become - obsessed with celebrity.
It's hard to argue with 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton when he says, "This may have changed skating a little bit, but to me it changed media forever."