30 years ago, the Tonya Harding – Nancy Kerrrigan affair: “Why not call in a sniper?”

The bad girl and the “princess”

Tonya Harding was born on November 12, 1970, in Portland, Oregon. Coming from a modest family, she lived a difficult childhood with her alcoholic mother who hit her and forced her to train for hours, even forbidding her from going to the toilet during her classes. At home, her brother, 11 years older, abuses her. The ice serves as an outlet. And his talent brought him to the top of American skating in 1991 thanks to a jump never before achieved in Uncle Sam's country: the triple Axel. But “Little Baracuda” failed to adorn himself in metal at the Albertville Olympic Games, a year later (4th). Unlike the one who will become her rival: Nancy Kerrigan, who drapes herself in bronze. The latter, who was born in 1969, in Massachusetts, had a different childhood than Tonya Harding. With more loving parents and siblings, despite a blind mother and a father who works hard to feed the family. The exact opposite of Tonya Harding. But, these two women, who are completely opposed, will be reunited and associated for eternity.

The “bad boys/girls” of sport (2/10): Tonya Harding, the enfant terrible of skating who never confessed

The twisted plan

The year 1994 was exceptionally Olympic. In order to no longer have the Summer and Winter Games in the same year, the IOC decided to move the Lillehammer edition to 1994, just two years after the Albertville Olympics. A new chance is given to Tonya Harding to shine. But in her quest for Olympic gold there remains a major obstacle: Nancy Kerrigan. We must then find a solution to eliminate it from the race for the Games. The USA Championships are a good opportunity to disqualify your eternal rival. But the ice rink cannot be enough, because the first two places qualify for the Games. Enough to send the two huge favorites to Norway. The Harding clan must then find a plan more than a solution. His bodyguard, Shaw Eckhardt, a two-meter-high marmul with a mustache and a bald head, is responsible for setting up the project under the command of Jeff Gillooly. Tonya Harding's abusive husband who beats her.

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Why not call in a sniper?

However, the initial plan arranged by Jeff Gillooly will evolve under the leadership of Shawn Eckhardt. Who finds that the letter of intimidation against Nancy Kerrigan lacks panache. He wants to go further, much further. “Why not call in a sniper?” Can we hear in the tapes that the bodyguard discreetly records. Or : “Why not cut his Achilles tendon with a knife? “Ideas, each darker than the last. He will finally fall back on the option of the “simple” baton blow. For this, he hires two of his guys: Derrick B. Smith and his nephew Shane Stant. Two thugs with minds as narrow as they are deranged. The hunt attests to this since Shane Stant misses his prey in Boston several times before driving 20 hours to finally catch him, this January 6, at the exit of the Cobo Arena in Detroit. Struck in the leg, Nancy Kerrigan lies on the ground and screams in pain. She had to give up the National Championships, which took place the next day, and thought she was saying goodbye to the Games. While Tonya Harding wins the national title and punches her ticket to Lillehammer.

Tonya on the ice, her entourage behind bars

But pressure is intensifying around the Harding clan. Husband, bodyguard and attacker were put behind bars on January 20. Meanwhile, the American figure skating federation frees up a place for Nancy Kerrigan for the Games. The latter was ultimately less injured than her aggression and her terrible cries had led us to imagine. On February 12, all the delegations from around the world arrive in Lillehammer. All eyes and lenses are focused on the banks of Lake Mjosa, in Hamar, where the two American skaters are expected. On February 17, Nancy Kerrigan, dressed in the white dress she wore during her attack, practices on the Gjovik ice rink. Suddenly Tonya Harding arrives on the same ice as her rival. They avoid each other, do not look at each other under the eye of the media who are jubilant in front of the scene. Six days later, the two skaters presented themselves for the short program. Tonya takes 10th place and Nancy first, ahead of the 126 million Americans glued to their television sets.

The princess still has to secure the gold promised to her two days later during the free program. But everything does not go as planned and the Ukrainian Oksana Baiul steals the most precious metal. The princess of Massachusetts must be content with money. While Tonya Harding, with her shoelace mishaps, sinks again and has to settle for 8th place. The beginning of the end for her. At the end of these Games she will be fined 90,000 euros. a fine that she will pay by selling the sex tape of her wedding night with her ex-husband for 160,000 euros. on the skating side, “Little Baracuda” will be banned for life from the American figure skating federation. Harding and Kerrigan is ultimately the story of a scandal between two diametrically opposed women that the ice brought together for the worse.

Margot Robbie as skater Tonya Harding

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