Entertainment

23 Years After She Rocked The Skating World, Tonya Harding Is Back On The Ice

There are some people who are fueled by a healthy dose of competition, and then there are those who take it a bit too far, hurting others and themselves along the way.

Figure skater Tonya Harding falls into the latter category.

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In 1994, just seven weeks before the Olympic Winter Games were scheduled to begin, Harding's longtime rival, Nancy Kerrigan, was viciously attacked by an assailant, who blew out her knees.

Two days later, a 24-year-old Kerrigan was forced to sit in a skybox while Harding skated her way to the top spot at the Women's U.S. National Championships in Detroit. Despite her injuries, the uber talented Kerrigan was also named to the Olympic team by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

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Kerrigan and officials behind the investigation chalked up the attack to the act of a deranged fan, but in reality the truth was much more bizarre.

A minister in Portland, Oregon revealed to the investigators on the case that he heard a recording of three men plotting to hurt Kerrigan. The men were identified as Harding's bodyguard, Shawn Eric Eckardt, her husband, Jeff Gillooly, and an unnamed hitman.

Speculation about Harding's involvement began to spread, and before long authorities were convinced that she and Gillooly hired the attacker to knock Kerrigan out of the running.

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The media frenzy surrounding the scandal turned Harding and Kerrigan into even bigger international sensations. Although Harding denied the allegations, she was still convicted of hindering apprehension, and was placed on a three-year probation. She also received a $160,000 fine, and was banned from the association for life.

As for Kerrigan, her injuries were not serious enough to ruin her career and she recovered well enough to win a silver medial at the Olympic Games just a few weeks after the attack. She went on to work professionally on Broadway on Ice, appear on TV shows and films like 2007's Blades of Glory. She was also among the celebrity dancers on season 24 of Dancing With The Stars.

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Harding, on the other hand, faded into obscurity and was not heard from until the release of her 2008 autobiography, The Tonya Tapes. In the book, she gave a harrowing account of the story behind Kerrigan's attack, revealing that Gillooly threatened her at gun point when he found out that she was planning to go to the FBI with the information she had.

Now, more than two decades since the scandal took place, Harding's story will once again be told in an upcoming biopic.

As the spotlight shines on her again, Harding is also cleaning up her act and getting back on the ice, and a source close to her revealed some of the details to People.

The biopic, I, Tonya, is scheduled for a wide release on January 19, 2018 and stars Margot Robbie as the disgraced figure skater.

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You'd think that with all the negative press Harding has received since the 90s the last thing she would support is a biopic, but she is actually very excited about the movie.

"Tonya is a good person,” explains one of the former skater's friends in an exclusive with People. "And she’s looking forward to having her story told sympathetically. She knows she’s not a saint, and doesn’t expect to be shown that way. But all she has ever wanted was for people to look beyond the headlines and see that she’s a real person who hasn’t gotten a lot of breaks in life."

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Harding is apparently confident that this film will paint her in a new and better light, especially after reading Robbie's interview with W Magazine, in which the actress said that she identifies with Harding.

"The more I became Tonya, the more I saw things from her point of view,” Robbie told the magazine. “I’m on her side 100 percent. I don’t think she did anything but be different from what the world wanted. She didn’t fit in. And I love that."

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Life hasn't been easy for Harding since news of the scandal broke, and she even attempted suicide once, according to People. She also released a sex tape with her then-husband Gillooly a few years ago.

Although she never took blame for Kerrigan's attack, Harding has apologized for the incident. She even admitted that feeling "guilty for what happened," but she has to "go on living."

“This is a big moment for her,” the friend adds. “She has apologized again and again for something she did when she was 22 — something wrong and stupid. But she’s a woman in her 40s now, and she’s ready to reclaim her story.”

In preparation for all the press she'll be getting in the upcoming months, Harding is "getting ready to be seen again." Her friend added that "she’s eating well and has lost some weight. She’s getting in shape and is even skating again. She’s really excited about this."

The trailer for I, Tonya, which also stars Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Walter, Julianne Nicholson and Mckenna Grace, was released this week and you can have a look at it below:

Are you looking forward to watching the movie?

H/T: People