Although she no longer competes, Tonya Harding was an American figure skater. She was successful, and even won the United States Figure Skating Championship in 1991. She was selected for the 1994 Olympic team; but, she stopped competing as a figure skater after 1994.
Tonya Harding was born in Portland, Oregon on November 12, 1970. Her parents were LaVona Harding and Al Harding. She had a half brother, Chris Davison, but he is now deceased.
She was interested in figure skating as a child, and was able to do a triple lutz at age twelve. A triple lutz is a figure skating jump, in which the skater takes off from the back outside, spins, and lands on the back outside of the opposite foot that he or she used to take off. It’s an extremely complicated jump because of the rotation the jump involves.
Harding began to focus even more on ice skating, and she dropped out of high school during her sophomore year to compete in international skating competitions. However, she later earned her GED.
When she was nineteen, she married Jeff Gollooly. This marriage did not last long, and she divorced him only three years after.
Harding was an extremely talented skater, and she began to place at significant competitions at a young age. In 1986, she placed sixth at the United States Figure Skating Championships. In 1987 and 1988, she placed fifth. Then, in 1989, she placed third. She won Skate America in 1989.
In 1991, Harding landed her first triple axel at the U.S. Championships. This won her the competition, and she also received the highest score ever given to a female based on technical merit. This score was a 6.0. She competed in the World Championships, and was the first woman to ever land a triple axel.
She competed at Skate America where she was:
- The first woman to ever do a triple axel in the short program
- The first woman to do two triple axels in a single competition
- The first individual to do a triple axel combination in the competition
After competing at Skate America, her career began to decline.
Starting in 1992, Harding suffered a series of mishaps. She twisted her ankle in practice, and thus only placed third at the United States Championships. In the 1992 Winter Olympics, she finished fourth. In 1993, she skated poorly and was not able to qualify for the World Championship.
Additionally, Harding seemed to suffer from a number of bizarre complications and bad luck.
- At the 1993 U.S. Championships, she had to restart her program because the back of her dress became unhooked when she started to skate.
- At the 1993 Skate America, she had to stop her program because her skate blade became loose.
- In 1994, Harding almost failed to appear when her name was called at the Winter Olympics because she was trying to replace a broken boot lace.
In addition to this series of bad luck, Harding became notorious in 1994 when she aided in an attack on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan when Kerrigan was practicing for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships which were to take place in Detroit.
Harding’s ex-husband and Harding’s bodyguard hired Shane Stant to break Kerrigan’s leg so she would not be able to compete. Although Stant attacked Kerrigan, he only bruised the leg rather then broke it. Kerrigan did have to withdraw from the event, however, and Harding subsequently won.
Both women were selected for the 1994 Olympic team. However, Harding was forced to admit that she assisted in the cover up of the attack. She couldn’t be removed from the team, but she finished eighth.
Although Harding pleaded guilty to aiding in the cover-up, she maintains her innocence in the crime to this day. She essentially stopped competing in figure skating after 1994.