On January 6, 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked after a practice session at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan. The attack came 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 Kerrigan was leaving the ice, an unidentified man struck her on the right knee with a collapsible metal baton. After her assailant made his escape, Kerrigan’s father lifted and carried her, sobbing, to the locker room. She was taken to the hospital for X-rays and released with a cut, bruises and swelling. A police investigation of the attack led to Jeff Gillooly, the former husband of Kerrigan’s biggest rival, Tonya Harding, who won the U.S. Championships after Kerrigan, was forced to withdraw. Gillooly and Harding’s bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt were accused of hatching the plot to attack Kerrigan, while Shane Stant was arrested as the attacker and his uncle, Derrick Smith, as the driver of the get-away car. In late January, Harding admitted that she had known those close to her were involved in the plot, and that she had helped conceal it. When the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to take away her spot on the Olympic team (alongside Kerrigan, who had been named to the team on January 31st), Harding filed a $20 million lawsuit against them, dropping it after they allowed her to stay on the team.
Kerrigan and Harding headed to Lillehammer in February amid media frenzy. Having recovered from her injuries, Kerrigan finished first after the short program, while Harding stumbled to 10th place. During her long program routine, Harding stopped skating in tears, complaining to the judges that a replacement lace on her skates was too short. After they allowed her to restart, she ended up in eighth place. Kerrigan won the silver medal, losing the gold to Oksana Baiul of the Ukraine. She complained bitterly about the loss, losing a bit of the public sympathy after making disparaging remarks about Baiul and complaining within earshot of a microphone while appearing in a post-Olympic parade at Disney World. After Jeff Gillooly took a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against his former wife, Harding pleaded guilty in March 1994 to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the case. Put on three years’ probation, she was fined $100,000 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service. She was later stripped of her 1994 U.S. Championship title and barred from amateur skating competition for life.
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