Nancy Kerrigan looks back, 20 years after Tonya Harding drama
Former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan speaks after a screening of a new documentary about the 1994 attack on her which will air the day of the 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Kerrigan has been reluctant to talk about rival Tonya Harding?s ex-husband hiring a hit squad to take her out before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. She finally relented for a show that marks the 20-year anniversary of the incident, which thrust figure skating into the spotlight and spawned an international media frenzy. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A screen shot of Tonya Harding from a promo for NBC's 'Nancy & Tonya' airing on Sunday, February 23, 2014.
Former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, right, stands next to NBC figure skating analyst Mary Carillo, as she speaks after a screening of a new documentary about the 1994 attack on her which will air the day of the 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan takes a question from the media after a screening of a new documentary about the 1994 attack on her which will air the day of the 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Kerrigan has been reluctant to talk about rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband hiring a hit squad to take her out before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. She finally relented for a show that marks the 20-year anniversary of the incident, which thrust figure skating into the spotlight and spawned an international media frenzy. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
17 FEB 1994: NANCY KERRIGAN AND TONYA HARDING OF THE UNITED STATES PASS EACH OTHER WITHOUT NOTICE DURING A PRACTICE SESSI0N AT THE 1994 LILLEHAMMER WINTER OLYMPICS. Mandatory Credit: Pascal Rondeau/ALLSPORT
The U.S. Skating Team, women's singles, shown at the 1992 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Orlando, Fla. From left, Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and Kristi Yamaguchi. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
U. S. figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan pose Jan. 9, 1994 during U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Joe Louis arena in Detroit, Mich. After four years of keeping their distance, figure skating rivals Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding could appear together on a television show celebrating the "Ladies of Lillehammer.'' (AP Photo/Merline Summers)
JAN 1991: Left to right: Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan on the podium during the 1991 US Figure Skating Championships (Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT).
US figure skaters Tonya Harding (L) and Nancy Kerrigan avoid each other during a training session 17 February in Hamar, Norway, during the Winter Olympics. Kerrigan was hit on the knee in January 1994 during the US Olympic Trials and it was later learned that Harding's ex-husband and bodyguard masterminded the attack in hopes of improving Harding's chances at the US Trials and the Olympics. (VINCENT AMALVY/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, flanked by her mother Barbara (L) and other family members, describes how she has been watching with binoculars the encamped press outside her parents Stoneham home in Boston, MA, 14 January 1994. Three men were arrested in connection with the attack on Kerrigan which kept her from competing at the National Championship. (JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, joined by her family and agent, answers questions from the press outside her parents Stoneham, Massachusetts home 14 January 1994. Three men were arrested in connection with the attack on Kerrigan which kept her from competing at the National Championship. (CHRIS CHRISTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Shawn Eric Eckardt (L), bodyguard of figure skater Tonya Harding, and fellow defendent Derrick Smith (R) are joined by Smith's attorney Robert Goffredi 14 January 1994 as they face Judge Donald Londer during their arraignment on charges of conspiracy to commit assault in the attack on skater Nancy Kerrigan. The two men were charged for the 06 January 1994 attack on Kerrigan. (CHRIS WILKINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Shawn Eric Eckardt, bodyguard of figure skater Tonya Harding, walks handcuffed into jail after being arrested and charged with conspiracy in the attack on skater Nancy Kerrigan. Eckardt was charged for the 06 January 1994 in the attack that left Kerrigan unable to compete in the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (CHRIS WILKINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Derrick Brian Smith (R) of Phoenix, Arizona is taken by an unidentified police officer into jail in Portland, OR, 13 January 1994 after being arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit assault in the attack on skater Nancy Kerrigan. Smith was charged in the 06 January attack that left Kerrigan unable to compete in the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (CHRIS WILKINS/AFP/Getty Images)
25 FEB 1994: NANCY KERRIGAN OF THE UNITED STATES IN ACTION IN THE FREE PROGRAM AT THE 1994 LILLEHAMMER WINTER OLYMPICS. KERRIGAN TAKES THE SILVER. Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill/ALLSPORT
Tonya Harding pumps her fists as she finishes her gold medal winning program at the women's championship 08 January 1994 at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, who did not compete because she was wounded in an attack by an unknown assailant 06 January, will represent the U.S. at the 1994 Winter Olympics. (Photo credit should read CHRIS WILKINS/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan stretches her injured knee during a workout at her hometown arena 17 January 1994. During this first public appearance on the ice after being attacked at the National Skating Championships, Kerrigan executed circles, spins, small hops and a half-axel. (POOL/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. figure skating champion Tonya Harding (R) listens to her coach Diane Rawlinson during a practice session early 18 January 1994 in Portland, Oregon. Federal and local investigators are trying to determine if Tonya Harding's money, some of it from Olympic sources, paid for the attack on figure skating rival Nancy Kerrigan. (POOL/AFP/Getty Images)
Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan (R) signs an autograph for a young fan 08 January 1994 after the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Kerrigan was named to the 1994 U.S. Olympic team despite having to drop out of the championships due to an injury caused in an attack by an unknown assailant 06 January 1994. (MICHAEL SAMOJEDEN/AFP/Getty Images)
28 Feb 1994: Tonya Harding of the USA during her routinue at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She took eighth place. (Chris Cole/Allsport)
Nancy Kerrigan performs during the P&G Wal-Mart "Tribute to American Legends of the Ice" at Izod Center on December 11, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Tonya Harding is pictured during a boxing exhibition during the second period intermission at the Colorado Eagles versus Indianapolis Ice hockey game at the Pepsi Coliseum on March 12, 2004 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Nancy Kerrigan is inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame during the State Farm US Figure Skating Championships January 9, 2004 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Figure Skater Nancy Kerrigan attends the 14th Annual BNP Paribas Taste Of Tennis at W New York Hotel on August 22, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for BNP Paribas)
Tonya Harding poses for a picture with two fans after a boxing exhibition during the second period intermission at the Colorado Eagles versus Indianapolis Ice hockey game at the Pepsi Coliseum on March 12, 2004 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since her ice skating days she's become involved in boxing. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan stands at a news conference in Boston, Jan. 14, 1994, as her agent Jerry Solomon, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Nancy Kerrigan of Stoneham, MA, speaks during a news conference Friday, January 7, 1994 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, as she describes how she was attacked by an unknown assailant Thursday, January 6, 1994 after a practice session at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Kerrigan, who withdrew from competition Friday, will be unable to defend her US Nationals title due to her injuries. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Nancy Kerrigan, of Stoneham, Mass., speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Mich., on Friday, Jan. 7, 1994. Kerrigan was clubbed on her right knee with a metal baton after a practice session at Cobo Arena on Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
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By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Nancy Kerrigan stood in front of a group of reporters, voice quivering and hands fidgeting as she described her emotions after watching a one-hour retrospective on the figure skating scandal that shook the Olympic earth 20 years ago.
There were only a handful of media members in the room with her Friday as opposed to the hundreds that hounded her in 1994 after rival skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband put together a hit squad to try to keep Kerrigan from skating against Harding in the Lillehammer Olympics. But as she fumbled with her cellphone and tugged at the bottom of her stylish jacket, it was clear that watching the events unfold again in a press conference room in Sochi all these years later brought bubbling back to the surface those same feelings of helplessness and bewilderment.
"It made me think about everything all over again," Kerrigan said after a screening of "Nancy & Tonya," which will air on NBC on Sunday.
"It's surprising how this whole event and being attacked, it's changed not just skating, it changed my life. It changed tabloid journalism, reality television. That whole other aspect that I had no part of. It just moved the world, almost, in a different direction. Whether it's for the better or not, who knows? It just changed everything."
Kerrigan and Harding were two of the brightest stars in American figure skating when they arrived in Detroit for the U.S. championships in 1994, about six weeks ahead of the Lillehammer Games. Kerrigan was knocked out of the competition when an associate of Harding's ex-husband whacked her on the right knee with a baton. It touched off a staggering scandal that pushed figure skating into the mainstream and made the camera-shy Kerrigan the uncomfortable subject of international fascination.
Kerrigan recovered in time to win a silver medal in Lillehammer, while Harding spun out of control.
"It's a little surreal to watch your life and to think, 'That's me,'" Kerrigan, who works for NBC as a skating analyst for the Sochi Games, said after watching the show. "It's almost like a whole other person at this point. I've changed. Well, I haven't changed really much, just moved on. Things in my life are different. I'm basically the same sort of competitive person, but it's just things move on."
As Harding parlayed the incident into a circus sideshow sort of celebrity that included televised boxing matches and guest commentary spots on hokey TV shows, Kerrigan retreated to the cocoon of family life. She almost never spoke publicly about her experience until just recently as the 20th anniversary approached.
During the screening, a dozen or so people sat near the front of the room. But Kerrigan sat near the back, out of sight while she watched the show recap her rise from modest means to skating stardom; the "whack heard 'round the world" that jeopardized her Olympic chances; and Harding talk about a hard-scrabble upbringing while continuing to deny she had any role in the attack on Kerrigan.
"I've apologized so many times," Harding said dismissively in the show. "She is not worth my time anymore."
"When you see someone struggle from the beginning, that's hard and I feel for her," Kerrigan said. "It doesn't excuse poor judgment. I hope now, after all this, for not just my sake but her sake, too. She has a family. Let's move on. You've got to allow people that chance to get on with their lives and try to be better and learn from mistakes."
As much as she expressed a desire to move past it Friday, there were times when it was clear that there is still some lingering pain and resentment for Kerrigan.
When journalist Mary Carillo, who interviewed both Kerrigan and Harding for the piece, was asked about Harding's persistent denial of involvement in the assault, Kerrigan interjected with an exasperated chuckle.
"Wouldn't it be weird to change it now?" Kerrigan said.
One of the toughest parts for Kerrigan was to see how some portrayed her as "an ice princess," a robotic, occasionally snarky competitor who was mocked for her cries of "Why? Why?" when she was struck on the knee and when microphones caught her calling a parade at Walt Disney World "corny."
"I remember how that felt," Kerrigan said. "So watching it, it's upsetting. Why are people like that? I don't understand."
She said she's always been a private person, so when the world turned its camera lens on her in 1994, the harsh light that shined with it was difficult for her to handle. She felt the picture that was painted was unfair and unflattering, a feeling that hasn't faded over time.
"I always wanted to be understood. Who doesn't want to be liked, right?" Kerrigan said, her voice trailing off as she concluded the interview. "That's all. I'm sorry."