Since the Winter Olympics are happening now, I thought this might be a good time to write this post. Otherwise, well, I will have to wait another four years for it to be semi-relevant.
In 1994, you all probably remember that Tonya Harding’s husband at the time paid a hit man to club Nancy Kerrigan in the knee, so that Nancy would not be able to make the Olympic team and Tonya would. The result was that they both made the Olympic team anyway. Tonya qualified at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and would go on to finish 8th at the Olympics that year. Nancy went to the Olympics on a special “we-were-all-planning-for-her-to-go-anyway” pass. She only got silver and blamed it on her knee injury. In reality, she probably wouldn’t have done better than silver, injury-free. And I am not sure she deserved silver anyway.
That is the controversy everyone remembers.
Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan
Let me give you a little background on how figure skating got to be so popular in the mid-90’s. CBS had lost their contract with the NFL. They needed programming, specifically sports, to fill in their Saturday and Sunday afternoon programming blocks. They chose to put on figure skating, both amateur and professional, competitions and shows. So skaters and performances that had previously not been aired on TV were suddenly in my living room every weekend. My mom and I watched them all. The Olympics of 1992 came and went, putting the faces of the champions front and center on our cereal boxes and in our commercials.
The decision was made to stagger the Summer and Winter Olympics, so that they would no longer occur in the same year. In order to start this staggered cycle, the next Winter Olympics was moved up to 1994. So, the cycle of competitions that led up to the Olympics started again right away (Nationals, Worlds). Many of the competitors were the same, because it was only two years later. It was exciting to watch their skills develop and grow. To make matters more familiar, at the 1994 games there was a rule change that let professionals compete at the Olympics again. Many big names competed again, such as Brian Boitano, Victor Petrenko, and Katerina Witt, although none reclaimed their previous glory.
Now, while I love to talk smack about Nancy Kerrigan, I feel a little guilty doing it, because she was good friends with Paul Wylie. Wylie surprised many by winning the silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. I had a huge crush on Paul Wylie. I even painted a picture of him skating in art class. (That is how obsessed I was with him and skating.)
Paul Wylie (The first celebrity I [did not] stalk on the Internet)
My mom and I even went to see Stars on Ice at the Toledo Sports Arena around 1992. I was so happy to see Debbie Thomas perform in person. She was always my favorite. I be she remembers that performance too. She sprained her ankle right in front of me. A few weeks later, she officially retired from skating to become a doctor.
And, this is all more figure skating history from a TV viewer than you probably want to know.
The fact that we are still talking about the rivalry between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding 20 years later is crazy. ESPN just did an interview with Tonya Harding about it. Neither of them would still be household names if it wasn’t for the incident. Tonya was very athletic and completed powerful jumps, but she lacked artistry. Kerrigan could skate around artistically, but often had trouble completing her jumps. But that damn tape kept making the rounds, of Nancy whining “Why? Why me? WHY!” Man, that gets annoying quick. I realize it should not have happened. It gave both women an unwanted legacy.
Nancy Kerrigan on the cover of Newsweek
The real reason I don’t like Nancy Kerrigan is because I believe her nicey-nice routine is all an act. I have never met her, of course, but I just believe that in uncensored moments she gets caught for the bitch that she is. I started this post with the event that the world still remembers. The following is the event that sticks in my mind the most.
My mom and I watched live the 1994 Winter Olympic Women’s Skating Finals in Lilehammer. We saw with our own eyes that while poor little Oksana Baiul found out she had won the gold and was falling apart, Nancy Kerrigan was waiting on the ice and making nasty comments, in a very unsportsmanlike way. Oksana was virtually an orphan, her coach having guardianship of her. She was only 16, from a poor country where she had nothing, and just found out she had a gold medal. Oksana was freaking out, rightfully so. All Nancy could do was make snotty comments about Oksana taking forever to fix her makeup.
#1 – Why would you ever say such a thing?
#2 – Why would you ever say such a thing with a TV camera in your face documenting it?
It only leads me to one conclusion–that that is her true personality, that she didn’t even realize how rude that sounded to shield it from others’ ears. It was like the whole country thought she was this sweet little princess with the blind mother. But I could see that she wasn’t. She felt she was entitled to a gold medal, and she was pissed that cute little Oksana had gotten in her way.
As this incident never gets mentions, I assumed the rest of the world had forgotten about it, except my mom and I. I was pleased to see it was mentioned in Nancy’s Wikipedia entry. It also mentions when she rode a float in the Disney parade and, with an open mic she didn’t realize was on, she made comments like “I hate this. This is so corny.” to none other than Mickey Mouse himself.
Oh, yes. It is sooo “corny” to get to be the guest of honor in a Disney parade and ride on a float wearing your Olympic silver medal.
Talk about not being thankful for the things you have.
I pity you.