ⓘ Tonya Harding
Tonya Maxene Price is an American former figure skater, retired boxer, and reality television personality. A native of Portland, Oregon, Harding was raised primarily by her mother, who enrolled her in ice skating lessons beginning at age four. Harding would spend much of her early life training, eventually dropping out of high school to devote her time to the sport. After climbing the ranks in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships between 1986 and 1989, Harding won the 1989 Skate America competition. She was the 1991 and 1994 U.S. champion before being stripped of her 1994 title, and 1991 World silver medalist. In 1991, she earned distinction as being the first American woman to successfully land a triple Axel in competition, and the second woman to do so in history. She is also a two-time Olympian and a two-time Skate America Champion.
In January 1994, Harding became embroiled in controversy when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on her fellow U.S. skating rival Nancy Kerrigan. Both women then competed in the February 1994 Winter Olympics, where Kerrigan won the silver medal and Harding finished eighth. On March 16, 1994, Harding accepted a plea bargain in which she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution. As a result of her involvement in the assault on Kerrigan, the United States Figure Skating Association banned her for life on June 30, 1994.
In the early 2000s, Harding competed as a professional boxer, and her life has been the subject of numerous films, documentaries, books, and academic studies. In 2014, two television documentaries about Hardings life and skating career Nancy & Tonya and The Price of Gold were aired within two months of each other - inspiring Steven Rogers to write the darkly comedic biographical film I, Tonya, released in 2017 and starring Margot Robbie as Harding. In 2018, Harding was a contestant on season 26 of Dancing with the Stars, finishing in third place.
1. Early life
Tonya Maxene Harding was born on November 12, 1970, in Portland, Oregon, to LaVona Golden b. 1940 and Albert Harding 1933–2009. She was raised in East Portland and began skating at age three, training with coach Diane Rawlinson. During her youth, Harding also hunted, drag raced, and learned automotive mechanics from her father. He held various odd jobs including managing apartments, driving a truck, and working at a bait-and-tackle store – yet was often underemployed due to poor health. LaVona struggled to support the family while working as a waitress, and hand-sewed her daughters skating costumes as they could not afford to purchase them. Hardings parents divorced after 19 years of marriage in 1987, when she was 16 years old. She later dropped out of Milwaukie High School during her sophomore year in order to focus on skating, and earned a General Educational Development GED Certificate in 1988.
Harding claimed she was frequently abused by her mother. She stated that by the time she was seven years old, physical and psychological abuse had become a regular part of her life. LaVona admitted to one instance of hitting Harding at an ice rink. In January 2018, Hardings childhood friend and filmmaker, Sandra Luckow, spoke in defence of Hardings mother because she felt that the 2017 film I, Tonya stretched some truths about LaVonas character. Luckow said that although Hardings mother could be "egregious" towards her daughter, LaVona funded and appreciated Hardings skating lessons, and had "a huge amount of humanity."
In Hardings 2008 authorized biography, The Tonya Tapes written by Lynda D. Prouse from recorded interviews with Harding, she said she was the victim of acquaintance rape in 1991 and that her half-brother, Chris Davison, molested her on several occasions when she was a child. In 1986, Harding called the police after Davison had been sexually harassing and terrorizing her. He was arrested and spent a short time in prison. Harding said her parents were in denial about Davisons behavior and told her not to press criminal charges against him. Davison was killed in an unsolved vehicular hit-and-run accident in 1988. On May 3, 1994, during an interview with Rolonda Watts, Harding said that Davison was the only person in her life unworthy of forgiveness and "the only person Ive ever hated."
2. Skating career
Harding trained as a figure skater throughout her youth with coach Diane Rawlinson. In the mid-1980s, she began working her way up the competitive skating ladder. She placed sixth at the 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, fifth in 1987 and 1988, and third in 1989. After competing in the February 1989 Nationals Championship, Harding began training with Dody Teachman as her coach. She then won the October 1989 Skate America competition, and was considered a strong contender at the February 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. However, she was suffering from the flu and asthma and had a poor free skate. After the original program, she dropped from second place and finished seventh overall. Harding was a powerful free skater and typically had lower placements in the compulsory figures.
Hardings breakthrough year came in 1991 when, at the U.S. Championships, she completed her first triple Axel in competition on February 16 - the first American woman to execute the jump. She landed seven triple jumps in the long program including the triple Axel. She won the 1991 U.S. Ladies Singles title with the events first 6.0 technical merit score since Janet Lynns 1973 performance at the U.S. Championships. She won the long program when seven of the nine judges gave her first place, and in doing so won the whole competition. She scored eight 5.9s and one 6.0 for technical merit and six 5.9s, one 5.8 and two 5.7s for composition and style. At the March 1991 World Championships, an international event, she again completed the triple Axel. Harding would finish second behind Kristi Yamaguchi, and in front of Nancy Kerrigan, marking the first time one country swept the ladies medal podium at the World Figure Skating Championships.
At the September 1991 Skate America competition, Harding recorded three more firsts:
- The first woman to complete a triple Axel in the short program
- The first woman to successfully execute two triple Axels in a single competition
- The first ever to complete a triple Axel in combination with the double toe loop
Despite these record-breaking performances, after 1991, Harding was never again able to successfully complete the triple Axel in competition; her competitive results began to decline. She and Dody Teachman had briefly parted ways in April 1991, but had reunited in June; Harding was still training under Teachman for the upcoming 1992 season. She placed third in the January 1992 U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite twisting her ankle during practice, and finished fourth in the February 1992 Winter Olympics. On March 1, 1992, Harding gave Teachman a summary dismissal and returned to Diane Rawlinson to be coached by her. On March 29 Harding placed sixth in the 1992 World Championships, although she had a better placement at the November 1992 Skate Canada International event finishing fourth. In the 1993 season, she skated poorly in the U.S. Championships and failed to qualify for the World Championship team.
In January 1994, Harding won the U.S. Championships but was later stripped of her title. The USFSA disciplinary panel voted to vacate the title in June 1994, following an investigation of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. In February 1994, Harding was permitted to remain a member U.S. Olympic ice skating team, despite brief legal controversy. After an issue with a broken skate lace in the long program, she was given a re-skate by the judges and finished in eighth place, behind Oksana Baiul gold and Nancy Kerrigan silver. Despite her USFSA ban, however, she did later compete at the professional level, placing second at the ESPN Pro Skating Championship in 1999.
2.1. Skating career Competitive highlights
^† In June 1994, Claire Ferguson, the President of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, voted to strip Harding of her 1994 title. However, the competition results were not changed and the title was left vacant rather than moving all the other competitors up one position.
3.1. Assault at Cobo Arena / Legal repercussions Nancy Kerrigan
On January 6, 1994 1994-01-06, one day before the U.S. Figure Skating Championship first Ladies Singles competition, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in a corridor after a practice session at the Detroit Cobo Arena. The immediate aftermath of the attack was recorded on a news camera and broadcast around the world. The assailant was Shane Stant, contracted to break her right leg; he turned himself in to Phoenix FBI on January 14. Stant and his uncle, Derrick Smith, were hired for this assault by Hardings ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her one-time bodyguard, Shawn Eckardt. After failing to find Kerrigan in Massachusetts, Stant had taken a 20-hour bus trip to Detroit. Nancy Kerrigan was walking behind a curtain when Stant rushed behind her. Using both hands, he then swung a 21 in 53 cm ASP telescopic baton at her right leg, striking her above the knee. The attack was intended to seriously injure Kerrigan so that she could not compete in the Nationals Kerrigan was the defending 1993 Champion nor the Winter Olympics. Kerrigans leg was not broken but severely bruised, forcing her to withdraw from the Championships and forgo competing to retain the U.S. Ladies title. On January 8, Harding won the U.S. title; she and Kerrigan were then both selected for the 1994 Olympic team.
3.2. Assault at Cobo Arena / Legal repercussions Crime discovery & Hardings response
On January 11, Ann Schatz interviewed Harding at the KOIN-TV station in Portland, Oregon. Schatz asked if she had considered whether someone she knew had planned to attack Nancy. Harding answered "I have definitely thought about it. No one controls my life but me.if there’s something in there that I don’t like, I’m going to change it." Harding also confirmed she had spoken with FBI agents in Detroit and again in Portland. On January 13, Eckardt and Smith were arrested. On January 14, the USFSA made a statement on whether Eckardts arrest affected Hardings Olympic placement: "we will deal only with the facts." Harding and Gilloolys separate lawyers confirmed the couple were in daily contact and cooperation with law enforcement. On January 15, Harding and Gillooly spoke with reporters, but declined to comment about the investigation. On January 16, her lawyer read a news conference statement denying Hardings involvement in the attack on Kerrigan. Harding left her home that evening to practice figure skating with her coaches, where she spoke with reporters and performed a triple Axel.
3.3. Assault at Cobo Arena / Legal repercussions Hardings confession
On January 18, 1994, Harding was with her lawyers when she submitted to questioning by the DA and FBI. She was interviewed for over 10 hours. Eight hours into the interview, her lawyer read a statement announcing her separation from Jeff Gillooly: "I continue to believe that Jeff is innocent of any wrongdoing. I wish him nothing but the best." Her full FBI transcript was press released on February 1. The Seattle Times reported the transcript stating that Harding had "changed her story well into a long interview.After hours of denying any involvement in trying to cover up the plot, an FBI agent finally told well – she has her own family, I have my family. Its time to make that our focus and move on with our lives."
4. Later career
On February 15, 1994, an explicit 1991 videotape clip of Harding topless was shown on A Current Affair ; three still frames from this clip were also published in The Sun a British tabloid newspaper. The New York Post reported that Jeff Gillooly had supplied the videotaped fragment for an undisclosed sum of money.
On July 26, 1994, Penthouse magazine announced that its September issue would feature different stills of Harding and Gillooly having sex from the same extended videotape. This 35-minute sex tape would also be copied and marketed exclusively by Penthouse. Both Gillooly and Harding used the same agent to negotiate equal payment on the Penthouse sale.
On June 22, 1994, in Portland, Oregon, Harding appeared on an AAA professional wrestling show as the manager for wrestling stable Los Gringos Locos. The nights performance included Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero. A promotional musical event was unsuccessful when Harding and her band, the Golden Blades, were booed off the stage at their only performance, in 1995 in Portland, Oregon.
In 1994, Harding was cast in a low-budget action film, Breakaway. The film was released in 1996.
Harding has also appeared on television, on the game show The Weakest Link: "15 Minutes of Fame Edition" in 2002 along with Kato Kaelin, and in March 2008 became a commentator for TruTVs The Smoking Gun Presents: Worlds Dumbest.
Since leaving skating and boxing, Harding has worked as a welder, a painter at a metal fabrication company, and a hardware sales clerk at Sears. As of 2017, she stated that she worked as a painter and deck builder. She resides in Vancouver, Washington.
In August 2019, Harding was seen in a television commercial in the United States promoting Direct Auto Insurance.
5. Boxing career
In 2002, Harding boxed against Paula Jones on the Fox Network Celebrity Boxing event, winning the fight. On February 22, 2003, she made her official womens professional boxing debut, losing a four-round split decision against Samantha Browning on the undercard of Mike Tyson vs. Clifford Etienne. Hardings boxing career came about amid rumors that she was having financial difficulties and needed to fight in the ring to earn money. She did another celebrity boxing match, on The Man Show, and won against co-host Doug Stanhope. Stanhope later claimed on his podcast that the fight was fixed because Tonya Harding refused to "fight a man".
On March 23, 2004, it was reported that she canceled a planned boxing match against Tracy Carlton in Oakland, California, because of an alleged death threat against her.
On June 24, 2004, she was defeated by Amy Johnson in a match held in Edmonton, Alberta. Fans reportedly booed Harding as she entered the ring and cheered wildly for Johnson when she won in the third round.
Her boxing career was cut short by her asthma. Her overall record was 3 wins and 3 losses.
6.1. Other appearances Automobile racing land speed record
On August 12, 2009, Harding set a new land speed record for a vintage gas coupe with a speed of 97.177 mph 156.391 km/h; 43.442 m/s driving a 1931 Ford Model A, named Lickity-Split, on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Her setting of that land speed record was featured on an episode of TruTV Presents: Worlds Dumbest. that focused on "Record Breakers".
6.2. Other appearances Dancing with the Stars
In April 2018, Harding was announced as one of the celebrities who would compete on season 26 of Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Sasha Farber. The couple reached the finals of the competition, where Harding finished in third place overall, behind Adam Rippon and Josh Norman.
6.3. Other appearances Worst Cooks in America
In August 2018, Harding was announced as one of the celebrities who would compete in the fifth celebrity edition of Food Networks Worst Cooks in America, set to broadcast in April 2019. Harding, learning under Chef Anne Burrell, ultimately won the competition. The US$25.000 prize went to her chosen charity of St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital.
7. Personal life
Harding began a relationship with 17 year-old Jeff Gillooly in September 1986 when she was 15. They moved into a starter home together in 1988 when he worked in distribution at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. They married on March 18, 1990 when she was 19 and he was 22. In January 1992, Harding told Terry Richard with The Oregonian, "Jeff always put food on the table and a roof over my head. He paid for my skating for a couple of years. If it hadnt been for him during that time, I wouldnt have been skating." They divorced on August 28, 1993. During the autumn of 1993, Gillooly was working part-time managing Hardings career and taking real estate classes. Harding and Gillooly had been continuing to see each other since early October 1993 and were sharing a rented chalet together in Beavercreek, Oregon until January 18, 1994. On October 29, 1996, she received media attention after using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to help revive 81 year-old Alice Olson who collapsed at a bar in Portland while playing video poker.
Harding married Michael Smith in 1995; they divorced in 1996.
On 22 February 2000 Harding attacked her then boyfriend Darren Silver, repeatedly punching him in the face and throwing a hubcap at his head. The attack left Hardings victim with a bloodied face and Harding was arrested. She initially pled not guilty to charges, but in a May trial admitted to attacking Silver and was sentenced to three days in prison, 10 days of community service and a suspended prison sentence of 167 days.
She married 42 year-old Joseph Price on June 23, 2010 when she was 39 years old. She gave birth to a son named Gordon on February 19, 2011.
Harding stated on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on February 26, 2018 that she is still active in skating and practices three times a week. She performed several jumps and spins on the show. She trains with her former coach Dody Teachman.
8. Cultural significance
Hardings life, career, and role in the 1994 attack have been widely referenced in popular culture including a 2008 primary campaign speech by President Barack Obama. In 2014, Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen created the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding Museum in their Brooklyn apartment, collecting and archiving memorabilia related to Nancy Kerrigan and Harding. A contemporaneous Vogue article noted that Harding had developed a "cult following" through the years.
8.1. Cultural significance Representation in other media
- Sharp Edges 1986, Sandra Luckows senior-thesis project for her Film studies major. Luckow was Hardings childhood friend, and the documentary followed Harding and her coaches to Uniondale, New York as she competed in the February 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The film featured interviews with Harding, her mother and coaches, discussing her career in figure skating.
- Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story 1994, NBC TV film based on public domain material, premiered on April 30, 1994; directed by Larry Shaw and written by previous Edgar Award winner Phil Penningroth. Alexandra Powers portrayed Harding and Heather Langenkamp portrayed Nancy Kerrigan. It featured fourth wall-breaking by having Dennis Boutsikaris play the films screenwriter: "We imprisoned complicit, but.I have a lot more empathy for her than I did." Janney also said, "I think LaVona was actually a very smart woman.knowing her daughter needed to be told she couldnt do it in order to do it was LaVonas way of saying, I was there to inspire her."
- Spunk: The Tonya Harding Story 1994, Comedy Central five-minute short film parody summarizing the scandal, estimated to have aired on February 25, 1994. Tina Yothers portrayed Harding.
8.2. Cultural significance Academic assessment
In 1995, the book Women on Ice: Feminist Essays on the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle was published, containing numerous essays analyzing Hardings public image. For example, Abigail Feder wrote that there existed "overdetermined femininity in Ladies Figure Skating.femininity and athleticism are mutually exclusive concepts in American culture." Sam Stoloff believed that, during the scandal, the media placed a greater emphasis on Hardings class rather than her gender femininity. He noted how she was subjected to a "litany of vaguely pejorative or mocking expressions" associated with "low class" cultural attributes, sometimes due to Hardings personal interests and hobbies. Stoloff theorized that Harding represented an American social class that required interpretation "the class Other" as he referenced the anthropological tone of Susan Orleans 1994 essay "Figures in a Mall," written for The New Yorker.
In academic Sarah Marshalls 2014 essay entitled "Remote Control: Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and the Spectacles of Female Power and Pain," she noted the pervasive role of the media in the 1994 scandal: "Somehow, in the scandals aftermath, the form of the Tonya-bash was able to alchemize even the most chilling details of Tonyas life into tabloid gold." Marshall also examined the role of Hardings "tomboy" persona in the context of figure skating. She theorized that Harding was rejected by the figure skating ethos because she did not conform – as Marshall believed many figure skaters including Nancy Kerrigan did – to appearing as "beautiful without being sexual, strong without being intimidating, and vulnerable without being weak."
9. Works cited
- Williams, Patricia J. 2010. "The Ethnic Scarring of American Whiteness". In Lubiano, Wahneema ed. The House That Race Built: Original Essays by Toni Morrison, Angela Y. Davis, Cornel West, and Others on Black Americans and Politics in America Today. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 253–63. ISBN 978-0-307-55679-0.
- Haight, Abby; Vader, J.E. 1994. Fire on Ice: The Exclusive Inside Story of Tonya Harding. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 9780812924572.
- Baughman, Cynthia, ed. 2013. Women on Ice: Feminist Essays on the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-91150-8. OCLC 830322475. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
- Bromley, Tom 2006. We Could Have Been the Wombles: The Weird and Wonderful World of One-Hit Wonders. Penguin Books. p. 90. ISBN 9780141017112.
- Saari, Peggy 1998. Great Misadventures: Bad Ideas That Led to Big Disasters. Thomson Gale. ISBN 0-7876-2799-2.
- Brownstone, David M.; Franck, Irene 1995. People in the News, 1995. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0-02-897058-6.
- Birrell, Susan; McDonald, Mary G., eds. 2000. Reading Sport: Critical Essays on Power and Representation. Northeastern University Press. ISBN 9781555534295. OCLC 43036842.
- Smith, Lissa, ed. 1999. Nike is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 978-0-87113-761-6. OCLC 255351946. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
- Coffey, Frank; Layden, Joe 1994. Thin Ice: The Complete, Uncensored Story of Tonya Harding. Kensington Publishing Corp. ISBN 9780786044979.
- Guerrero, Eddie 2005. Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7434-9353-2.
- Prouse; Harding 2008. Torke, Kyle; Strozier, M. Stefan eds. The Tonya Tapes: The Tonya Harding Story in her Own Voice. World Audience, Inc. ISBN 9781934209806.
- Nelson, Murry R. 2013. American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39753-0.
- Hamilton, Scott; Benet, Lorenzo 1999. Landing It: My Life on and off the Ice. Kensington Books. ISBN 1-57566-466-6.
- Sullivan, Randall July 14, 1994. "The Tonya Harding Fall". Rolling Stone article. No. 686/687. p. 80. ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on February 26, 2014 – via MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost. Lay summary→ May be accessed via any local library account
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