Tonya Harding revisited: Victim or villain?

Fourth-Place Medal
Tonya Harding revisited: Victim or villain?
Tonya Harding revisited: Victim or villain?

It's been 20 years since Tonya Harding became one of most notorious names in Olympic sports, but after filmmaker Nanette Burstein profiled the former figure skater in ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary, “The Price of Gold,” her story is back in the public eye.

Harding, now 43, still denies any role in the 1994 attack on her U.S. rival Nancy Kerrigan.

[Photos: Where are they now? Skating stars of the past]

Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and three other men served time in prison for orchestrating and carrying out Kerrigan’s knee-whacking at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Kerrigan’s injury and consequent withdrawal from the event cleared a path for Harding to the Lillehammer Olympics.

“I did not do this,” Harding adamantly reiterated in the documentary that aired last month. “I was not involved.”

Kerrigan did not participate in the documentary, as Burstein sought out to tell Harding’s story. She painted a portrait of a talented but troubled skater, a victim of the same kind of physical violence that was carried out against Kerrigan.

One of Harding’s childhood friends recounted an incident where a young Harding was beaten by her mother LaVona Golden with a hairbrush during a skating competition. In another disturbing scene, a teenaged Harding was verbally berated by Golden for missing one of her jumps in competition. Harding revealed she later faced abuse at the hands of Gillooly.

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Harding also claimed mistreatment by United States Figure Skating, especially when compared to how the governing body of the sport viewed Kerrigan. Harding felt the powers-that-be discriminated against her for working-class background and athletic – versus artistic – style. To this day, she remains resentful:

“Nancy is a princess. That’s how everyone is seeing her. She's a princess and I'm a pile of crap.”

While “The Price of Gold” paints a sympathetic portrait of Harding, she’s ironically not the only Lillehammer skater whose life became anything but golden. See how their lives have turned out:

Tonya Harding: While she denied direct involvement in Kerrigan’s attack, Harding did admit she withheld information she learned afterwards, and plead guilty to hindering prosecution of the assailants. She was stripped of her 1994 national title and banned from the sport for life. After appearing on a made-for-TV special “Celebrity Boxing” (versus Paula Jones), Harding had a brief career in the squared circle. In 2011, she and third husband Joseph Jens Price welcomed a son.

Nancy Kerrigan: Kerrigan made millions after winning the silver medal in Lillehammer. She admitted she was uncomfortable with her overnight fame, and suffered some public gaffes. In 2010, Kerrigan’s father Daniel suffered a heart attack and died after an altercation with her brother Mark. Mark was charged with manslaughter, but found guilty of the lesser charge of assault and battery.

Oksana Baiul: The Ukrainian skater narrowly edged out Kerrigan for Olympic gold. In 1997, Baiul was arrested for driving under the influence after crashing her car into a tree. In 2012, Baiul sued her agents at William Morris Endeavor for bilking her out of millions.

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