Some of us can vividly remember the intentional injury meant to take Nancy Kerrigan out of the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. This all went down after a hit to Kerrigan’s knee, which was later referred to as “the whack heard around the world.” It was a pretty bad blow, but it didn’t keep Kerrigan out for long.
The story flooded newsstands and headlines for several months. Even if people were not very interested in the topics of skating, the Olympics or sports in general, they were aware of the situation. It was all that could be talked about for what seemed like forever.
Unfortunately—as things unfolded—this became a legal issue. It appeared that Tonya Harding—the competition—had something to do with it. With so much news coming out about the scandal, there were lots of details that were left hidden. Most of the news shared was the most important information. The little things—that are actually a big deal—were left out. Reports simply wanted to cover the basics and get it out quickly.
This means that there are plenty of secrets about the whole situation. Most of us haven’t heard all of the details that actually went down. Let’s take a look at 15 things that we didn’t know about this scandal!
15 Harding Was The Better Skater
The fact that Tonya Harding’s ex-husband–Jeff Gillooly—wanted to take down the competition—Nancy Kerrigan—would make us think that Harding might lose. Why would the competition need to be taken out if Harding was definitely going to beat them? Well, even though Harding was technically a better skater, her ex-husband still decided to go through with the plan. He wanted to eliminate the chances of Harding being beaten.
What’s surprising is that despite being a “worse” skater and having been injured recently, Kerrigan was able to pull through. She was able to recover quickly and then she was even able to compete in the Olympics.
Then she ended up placing better than Harding did.
That attack proved to be pretty unsuccessful at injuring Kerrigan long-term and at preventing her from interfering with a win for Harding.
14 Kerrigan Thought She Was Better Than Harding
Though Harding was technically better—as far as statistics go—Kerrigan believed she was the better skater. This had a lot to do with the intensity of the endorsements she had received. Harding was definitely more of an athlete, which gave her the body to train harder and perform better.
Kerrigan—on the other hand—was more graceful. Because of this charm, she was able to get countless endorsements. This also brought her more attention from everyone—coaches, competition, and fans.
It all depends on what is considered more important—athleticism or grace. In a sport like skating, it is hard to determine which is actually the most accurate factor. Based on Kerrigan’s fame and grace alone, it would make sense that she would be considered to be more successful.
13 There Have Been No Apologies Made...Yet
There are some differing thoughts on this. An apology is to be expected by now, but it sounds like it hasn’t happened yet. In some interviews, Harding has stated that she has apologized to Kerrigan. This may not be true, though.
Kerrigan—in a 2017 interview—said,
"We were at an event four years after I was attacked, but we didn't really speak to each other so it was very awkward and strange.” This would have been a good time for Harding to apologize, but it just didn’t happen.
When Kerrigan was asked about an apology, she shared that she still hadn’t received a direct apology.
What Kerrigan meant by this is that Harding had mentioned to people that she felt bad for what happened. Those statements did get back to Kerrigan, but Harding never made a direct effort to say she was sorry.
12 Harding Lost Her All Of Her Titles
Though this was made known back when the incident first happened, it wasn’t a huge piece of information. As mentioned previously, most reports wanted to get the basics down. The in-depth details were shared, but they were less well-known.
Because of everything that happened with the scandal, Harding got her titles taken away.
Once the U.S. Figure Skating Association decided that Harding knew about the attack ahead of time, they banned her from the organization.
Next, they took her 1994 national championship title away from her. This was all six months after the attack happened.
William Hybl—the chairman of the U.S. Figure Skating Association—said, “By a preponderance of the evidence, the five members of the panel concluded that she had prior knowledge and was involved prior to the incident.”
11 Gillooly’s Regrets
Jeff Gillooly—who now goes by the name of Jeff Stone—has since expressed his feelings about the whole scandal. Often, he is viewed as being the bad guy, so his good side isn’t very publicized. We usually just hear the bad things about him.
He was behind the whole attack on Kerrigan, but now he isn’t so proud of his plan. He mostly feels bad for what he did to Harding. In a 2013 interview, he said,
“She'll never be remembered for how wonderful a figure skater she was. She'll be remembered for what I talked her into doing.”
He isn’t totally remorseful, though. In the same interview, Gillooly gave the attack credit for getting him to where he is today with his family. At least he’s putting a positive spin on it.
10 A Handwritten Note Lead To Harding Being Guilty
For a while, Harding’s involvement was still questionable. It was thought that she might have something to do with it, but it hadn’t been proven. It seemed as if the police were looking for a true sign, one way or another. Well, they ended up with some evidence.
A worker at Dockside Saloon was taking the trash to the dumpster. In the dumpster, she found a few trash bags that someone had left. Inside one of these bags contained some papers that obviously belonged to Harding.
One of these papers was actually an envelope. This envelope had notes about the attack written on the outside. After Harding repeatedly denied that the handwriting was her own, her handwriting was analyzed. This was the evidence needed to confirm that Harding was involved.
9 Kerrigan’s Hunch That Something Was About To Go Down
There is little chance that Kerrigan knew all of the details of the planned attack. It would be impossible for her to figure everything out ahead of time. If she knew it was going to happen, she likely would have avoided the situation entirely or called the police.
It has been reported that she actually did have some suspicion that something would be happening. She didn’t know any of the plans or how it would all go down.
She just somehow got the hunch that something against her was in the works. Maybe it had something to do with her relationship with Harding.
Unfortunately, what Kerrigan knew prior to the attack just wasn’t enough to save her from the whole thing. Had she known a little bit more, she could have played it safe.
8 Gillooly Turned Himself In
With all of the messy details that were being released at the time of the attack, it makes sense that some things would get muddled together. One of these details is actually a pretty big deal though, and we’re surprised that not more news stories included it. Nonetheless, it’s still important to learn about.
Less than two weeks after the hit, a warrant for Gillooly’s arrest was put out. Because of this, he decided to turn himself into the FBI.
Shortly after, he implicated himself and four others—Tonya Harding, Shawn Eckhardt, Shane Stant and Derrick B. Smith. Gillooly ended up pleading guilty to racketeering. This left him with just a two-year sentence for the entire attack. Smith and Stant each got 18-month sentences for their involvement a few months later.
7 Kerrigan Got Lucky
We can hardly say that Nancy Kerrigan was lucky throughout the whole scandal. She ended up getting attacked, which was far from ideal. She actually was pretty fortunate though, considering what could have happened.
In 2017, she spoke about the seriousness of her injury. She explained how much worse it could have been, saying,
“I was hit right above my kneecap. If I was hit just a little below, my kneecap would have been shattered; just a little above, the whole muscle would have been calcified…
...I had no idea how bad it was, I had on slacks. My knee could fill the slack. I couldn’t walk on it for a couple weeks. It was very traumatic.”
Luckily, she was able to recover quickly and then she bounced back in time for the Olympics.
6 A Discussion Of Doing More Damage Than Just Busting A Knee Was Had
The four men behind the whole attack were Jeff Gillooly, Shawn Eckhardt, Shane Stant and Derrick B. Smith. They worked together to plan the entire thing. There were more than a few pieces of the plan that they would have to orchestrate properly in order for it to go smoothly.
While most of the time the group was focusing on injuring Kerrigan’s leg, there was one idea thrown out that was too far. Apparently, Eckhardt had made the suggestion of killing Kerrigan. Luckily, the rest of the guys talked some sense into him and decided they only needed to lower the skater’s chances of winning.
Gillooly came up with the idea of hurting just Kerrigan’s right leg. This is the one that she used to land on. If she couldn’t land, it would be nearly impossible for her to skate and compete against Harding.
5 The End Of Harding’s Career
The entire situation—from the attack to the investigation—was a mess for everyone involved. As we can imagine, it was a challenge for Kerrigan to recover from her injury. Harding was met with accusations. Nobody really made it out on top.
To make it worse, this is a big reason why Harding’s career came to an end. This scandal led Harding to a rough spot, where she would have to find a new skill.
Shortly after the scandal occurred, Harding lost her title and her opportunity to be a part of the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
It’s unfortunate that the scandal had to end this way for Harding. It was believed that it wouldn’t be fair if she was allowed to continue in her career, given the suspicions that she had been involved.
4 It Was All Her Ex’s Plan
Shortly after Harding and Gillooly had officially gotten a divorce, he decided to get involved in helping Harding out. Right before the attack happened, the couple had gotten back together temporarily. They ended up splitting up again once the investigation was underway.
He wanted to give her the chance to win, and, apparently, he didn’t think she could do it on her own. Gillooly got involved with three other guys, as mentioned previously.
Though all four men had their parts to play in the attack, Gillooly seemed to be in charge of it all. He also happened to have the most direct connection to Harding, making it even more obvious that he was involved.
It’s still unclear as to why Gillooly was so determined to help Harding get ahead and why he assumed she couldn’t do it on her own.
3 Harding Kept Quiet About It All
Throughout some of the investigation, Harding tried her best to keep quiet. Some of this has to do with her not wanting to get caught. There are other details that probably had something to do with Gillooly.
There is a claim that Gillooly—who was abusive—held her at gunpoint and raped her. This was his way of stopping her from sharing any information with the FBI. It is said that Harding was trying to come clean throughout the investigation process, but she felt threatened by Gillooly.
It seems pretty obvious why she kept things hidden for so long, especially with her ex-husband’s past of hurting her. This abuse went far beyond the threats regarding the Kerrigan attack. She was even forced into the attack when it had just begun.
2 Tonya Tried To Sue
Because of everything that followed the attack, Harding was worried that she would not be allowed to skate in the Olympics. The Olympic Committee was attempting to keep Harding out of the games after the scandal had ensued.
Harding wanted to fight back though. She decided to sue the U.S. Olympic Committee, using it as leverage to get her back into the Olympics.
This didn’t end up happening, but she was allowed to skate. There was a lot of debate on this at the time. Some people believed that Harding shouldn’t have been allowed to skate.
Even though Harding was given the opportunity to skate, she didn’t do as well as she had hoped—even though her biggest competitor had recently been injured. Kerrigan placed second, while Harding placed eighth.
1 Tonya—It Seems As Though She Knew About It The Whole Time
The FBI determined that Harding knew about the planned attack before it was set to happen. It’s believed that this is because Harding and Kerrigan were directly in competition with one another. Plus, Gillooly was Harding’s ex-husband, so that connection makes sense, too.
In one interview, Kerrigan explained what the FBI had told her. She said, “They told me we can't give you hard proof, but we do this for a living, and we are convinced Harding knew.”
There were tons of allegations as the investigation persisted. Many of these claimed that Harding was involved in one way or another. Some even believed that the whole thing was her idea anyway. It’s still a bit unclear as to how much she actually knew. It’s suspected that she knew more than she’d like us to believe. What do you believe?