I can't believe it's been 15 years since the infamous 1994 Winter Olympics and the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding saga. And don't forget the little Ukrainian orphan Oksana Baiul who stole the show and the gold Medal.
It began when Nancy was attacked after a practice at Nationals; rival Tonya Harding's husband Jeff Gillooly was involved in the conspiracy to take Kerrigan out of Olympic contention. Tonya maintained her innocence in the whole affair and boy I wanted so badly to believe her. I bought the whole "poor figure skater – never accepted by the figure skating community because I was born on the wrong side of the tracks" persona she portrayed. But as time went on it became more and more clear that she was a master manipulator and in fact, not as innocent as I wanted to believe.
But Tonya held on to her spot on the Olympic team, as did Nancy. Tanya ever the drama queen had the broken shoe lace incident—and was allowed more time to find another shoe lace and start her program over. My daughter and I have both skated in little competitions – and we don't go ANYWHERE without extra laces. Who shows up at the OLYMPICS without an extra set of laces? But this was nothing new for Tanya – in the past she had wardrobe malfunctions, skate blade problems…supposed death threats….
Another competitor that suffered from her drama was Canada's Jose Chouinard who had to go on early when Tonya got her extra time. She did not skate her best and later admitted (when asked not in a whiney way) that having to go on early did throw her off a bit.
Nancy skated probably the best she ever did but it wasn't enough andit was the World Champion Oksana Baiul who won the day in a controversial tiny margin. Nancy didn't follow the prescribed "always gracious always smiling" script for lady figure skaters and suddenly all the support and sympathy she had from the attack disappeared and she was never very popular after that.
Oksana at the ripe old age of 16 went pro and went on a downward spiral of alcoholism and never skated very well after that either.
But Figure Skating as a sport benefited from the whole affair. That and the fact that CBS lost the rights to Sunday afternoon NFL football and so started showing Figure Skating instead. Thus began about an 8 year "Golden Era" of figure skating…with all kinds of silly pro events that some purists hated but I loved because they featured my favorites – Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie, Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt, Rosalynn Sumners, Kurt Browning….
But nothing lasts forever and all we get these days is a few days of Nationals and Worlds. And a new crop of little girls who jump jump jump…which to me was never what figure skating was about.