Mary Carillo examines story that riveted America in one-hour documentary featuring exclusive sit-down with Nancy Kerrigan and one-on-one with Tonya Harding
Exactly 20 years to the day after the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, Mary Carillo looks back at the events leading up to, during and following the ladies' figure skating competition in the special one-hour "Nancy & Tonya." The documentary, featuring an exclusive sit-down with Nancy Kerrigan and a one-on-one interview with Tonya Harding, debuts this Sunday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. on NBC - immediately prior to the closing ceremony.
One of the most dramatic episodes in Winter Olympics history, the three-hour telecast of the 1994 ladies' figure skating short-program competition was viewed by more than 126 million Americans - ranking as the fourth-most viewed show at that time in U.S. history (according to Nielsen data released by CBS, which televised the event). In addition, the competition earned a 48.5 rating - meaning nearly 50 percent of the country's television homes were tuned in - a number which has not been matched since by any television program.
The documentary combines present-day and archival interviews, practice and competition footage, and news coverage leading up to and during the 1994 events. In addition to the principals, "Nancy & Tonya" features interviews with Kerrigan's coaches Mary Scotvold and Evy Scotvold, Harding's coach Dody Teachman, and four members of the media who covered the 1994 Winter Games: NBC figure skating analyst and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, who was in the booth for CBS; USA Today columnist Christine Brennan; Chicago Tribune columnist Philip Hersh; and former CBS Evening News co-anchor Connie Chung.
"I would have chosen a different path, if I could," Kerrigan says in the opening of the show. "I would've liked to have just done what I had worked so hard for, and not have to be linked like that ... as opposed to this horrific act."
Following are highlights from "Nancy & Tonya":
Kerrigan: "I just like going fast. It would irritate my coach when I was a kid. I would skate around like a hockey player - all bent over and trying to go as fast as I could."
Brennan: "She was a feisty Boston tomboy who played hockey with her brothers. Nancy is a welder's daughter. Blue-collar family. They cobbled together money so that she could skate."
Kerrigan on never wearing her medals: "I had a coach who said, 'You don't want to look like you're bragging.' I think because of learning that, when I won, I was like, 'Yeah, that was good. Mmm. Great.' And then I'd get in my room, and I was like, 'Yes!' So I was taught to just put a wall up."
Harding: "I grew up with what is called a blue spoon instead of the silver spoon. We moved around a lot and we lived in our trailer in between places we had to live."
•At the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Minneapolis, Harding became the first American woman ever to land the triple axel in competition. She won the gold medal (Kerrigan won the bronze). A month later, Harding landed the jump again.
Hamilton on Harding: "She was so physically strong that if her blade hit the ice just the right way she could land anything."
Brennan: "The fact that Tonya Harding could land this jump and she landed it in 1991, that's extraordinary. And she deserves to be in the history books for that."
Hersh on Harding: "Here you had a kid who's appeared to have come from a poor-as-dirt background and now had a chance to be the biggest star in this sport."
Harding on making figure-skating history in 1991: "It's the only one thing, in my past, that no one - no one - can take away from me."
Kerrigan on Harding: "She was dynamic and strong and powerful, which I liked. She jumped huge."
•At the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, Kerrigan won the bronze medal and Harding placed fourth, finishing behind their gold-medal winning U.S. teammate Kristi Yamaguchi and silver medalist Midori Ito (Japan).
1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Site of the Attack
Kerrigan, reflecting on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 1994: "I was done with practice for the day. I got off the ice and went through the curtain and then I was hit. And then that just changed everything. Someone hit me with something. I just saw a black kind of pole or something coming down."
Kerrigan on her discussion with doctors the day of the attack: " (I said], 'I'm competing tomorrow!' And they were like, 'No, you're not.' I'm not very good with change. It takes me a while to adjust."
Harding, who sat next to Kerrigan in U.S. team photo in Detroit three days after the attack: "It just felt strange. Always looking for somebody to run out and do what they did to Nancy to other people, including myself."
Kerrigan on Harding: "I had people asking me, 'Do you think she had anything to do with it?' And I, my reaction to that was, 'That's ridiculous.' To me, this had to have been some random act."
•Kerrigan did not compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships due to the injury suffered in the attack. Kerrigan was, however, named to the U.S. Olympic team pending a pre-Olympic skate for the U.S. Figure Skating Association, which wanted to make sure she was fit to compete.
Coach Evy Scotvold on Kerrigan's pre-Olympic performance at her home rink: "Boy, to see her skating that day - that was thrilling. She wanted to beat the world. I've never seen anybody train that hard in my life. She was a whole different dude."
•Harding won the gold medal at the competition in Detroit. The U.S. Figure Skating Association considered disciplining Harding - potentially removing her from the Olympic team. After Harding threatened a lawsuit, the governing body backed off and allowed her to compete for the U.S. team in Lillehammer.
The 1994 Olympic Winter Games - Lillehammer, Norway
•For the first time since Harding's husband and bodyguard were arrested for the attack on Kerrigan, the two were on the ice together for an Olympic practice.
Kerrigan on the opening Olympic practice session: "There were about three or four hundred cameras at the practice. It's a practice. I wasn't afraid of her, but I thought it would be a zoo to put us on the same ice. And I was right."
Kerrigan on wearing the same white dress that she wore on the day she was attacked: "Humor is good and it's fun. And I thought, it's empowering and it's, 'Hey, I'm here. I can do this. I'm back. I'm ready.' "
Hamilton on the first Olympics practice: "I saw press jammed into this one little area. I saw The Washington Post, People magazine, The New York Times, The National Enquirer, and you go down the line and they were all equals. This may have changed skating a little bit, but to me it changed media forever."
•On Feb. 23, Kerrigan skated a two-minute, 42-second short program to the song "Desperate Love," topping all other competitors after the first day of competition. Harding was in 10th place after the short program.
Hersh: "After Jan. 6 at 2:38 p.m., Detroit time, it was totally impossible for Nancy Kerrigan to be private. So where could she get away from all of this? At the most psychologically overwhelming place on earth, standing in front of a worldwide TV audience, on a blank sheet of ice."
Brennan on Kerrigan: "No one has ever had more eyeballs on them at an Olympic Games. And she was terrific."
•In the long program two nights later, Harding was delayed by a broken skate lace and then did not complete her performance. The judges gave Harding a second chance. After both performances, she finished in eighth place.
•Kerrigan had an exceptional performance in the long program, but after combining scores for the long and short programs she won the silver medal, one-tenth of a point behind 16-year-old Oksana Baiul from the Ukraine.
Hersh: "At the moment, I thought it was a very close decision. I thought Baiul had won."
Brennan: "I thought Nancy Kerrigan had won the gold. Absolutely."
The Two Decades Since
•Harding is married with one child and has taken part in a number of sports and entertainment reality shows over the past 20 years.
Harding: "I have a wonderful life. ... I do landscaping. It keeps me in shape. ... You can look at it half cup full, half cup empty - whichever way you want to look at it. But, you know what, you make mistakes. You move on. You learn from it."
•Kerrigan is married with three children and was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2004.
Kerrigan: "Life has moved on. I can't do things like I used to, but I don't dwell on it. ... After school, most days, I'm driving (the kids). I drive in circles - 125 miles in two days. But I know what people did for me, and now it's my turn. Right now, I'm very busy being mom, and I have a lot of responsibility doing that. I'm putting three kids, eventually, out into the world."