This week marks the twentieth anniversary of figure skating’s most infamous scandal, the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan knee-whacking (which, you may recall, involved a blunt object, a conspiracy to keep Kerrigan out of the Olympics, and a media-friendly rivalry pitting two female stars against each other). The widely accepted version of events has Harding putting her ex-husband up to the attack — but a new essay by Sarah Marshall in The Believer presents a much more sympathetic version of the skating-world pariah, raising provocative questions about the way that Harding was typecast in the media and the widespread willingness to accept her abusive ex-husband's word over hers.
Back in January 1994, Kerrigan was walking to the locker rooms after a final practice before the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships when a man darted out behind a set of curtains and hit her upper thigh with a police baton. Fortunately for Kerrigan, the attacker missed her knee, but the injury was serious enough that doctors advised her not to compete the next day. In her absence, Kerrigan’s chief rival, Tonya Harding, won the gold, securing her spot on the Olympic team.