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Nancy Kerrigan looks back, 20 years after Tonya Harding drama



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."

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mahon February 24 2014 at 6:07 PM

You realize Kerrigan & her buch aren't the the "cookie bakers" she's made out to be! In 2010 her brother Mark, in a drunken rage, CHOKED his FATHER to death! Nancy interviened, got the charges REDUCED to ASSAULT & BATTERY (ya think!) and Mark only got 30 months (REDUCED TO 24 MONTHS) for KILLING THEIR FATHER! He got out in 2013 I understand. Same old story MONEY & the right CLOTHES, ANYTHING GOES; Blue Collar worker with little cash, well then YOU MUST be TRAILER PARK TRASH! You people make me SICK!

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kjpargolf February 24 2014 at 1:03 AM

News Flash: Tonya Harding is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

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jim February 24 2014 at 9:45 AM

Yep, I imagine everyone has a sharper hoe in their possession

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mahon February 24 2014 at 5:29 PM

you should know, but I STILL think I paid TO MUCH for your MOTHER!

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hberry9652 February 22 2014 at 8:20 PM

I find it hard to believe Tonya was more than an accessory after the fact. There were 2 openings on the U.S. Olympic team. Getting rid of Nancy accomplished nothing, and Tonya had been around skating long enough to know it. I think her stupid husband thought this was a good idea.

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mahon February 22 2014 at 9:11 PM

That or Nancy had it done herself to accuse & get rid of Tonya. Are you old enough to have watched them at practices and performances? Those athletes suffer far more serious injuries in practice than a bump on the knee and don't carry on the way she did for the conviently placed cameras. She also managed somehow to hold back any tears despite her supposed anguish. Finally, despite this horribly painful injury she managed to bounce right back in time for her "pity points" to net her a silver medal ! I think Daddys money paid off Tonya's husband to betray Tonya ! The only "injury" was to Hardings future and of coarse all the current and future Olympians kerrigan's whining continues to steal the limelight from! We could ask kerrigans Daddy, OH no we can't, I believe I read that he was murdered by his own son ! And kerrigan call Tonya Harding "trailer Trash"?! Look in the mirror nasty nancy.

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jim February 24 2014 at 9:51 AM

I imagine if Miss Kerrigan were trying to play to the 'conveniently placed cameras' (lol) she would've managed at least a few tears. Pity Points (again, lol) In fact I'm about to bust a gut about the description of Miss Kerrigan 'steal(ing) the limelight'. There has never been a limelight hog bigger than Harding - back then anyway. Now we have (gag) the Kardashians and those types. You are a funny person! Like the humor.

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elltofts February 22 2014 at 8:07 PM

Saw Tonya on a documentary recently saying "she (Nancy) treated me like trailer trash".
Tonya you are trailer trash so deal with it!

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Sandie February 22 2014 at 6:36 PM

How embarrassing to have that incident put Portland, Oregon on the map for a lot of people! "Oh, you have that skater whose husband arranged to have Nancy Kerrigan injured just before the Olympics. How nasty was THAT!"

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eaglephoenix2 February 22 2014 at 2:59 PM

Wow, Kristi Yamaguchi still looks extra fine! That Kerrigan/Harding thing was made out to be such a big deal. This was when tabloid journalism was really hitting it. I believe there's a tiny clip of it at the end of Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" along with OJ, Menendez Bros, and Lorena Bobbitt showing how America was really getting bombarded with this stuff. They covered this constantly and it was very sensationalized. From reports of Kerrigan bullying Harding before the incident, and then of course Tonya's crew of misfit losers, and Nancy's supposed snobbishness to poor Tonya's blue collar struggle. Yeeks. I'm reliving it all over now! Why? Why? Make it stop!

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dollie February 22 2014 at 10:28 AM

There was a nice story about a man who lives in Kerrigan's hometown, who takes his kids to the local ice skating rink. He says she is really very very nice and never has a bad word to say about anyone. He did say they had to bring sugar cubes and carrots before they petted her. That way she doesnt lay back her ears and bite the kids when they are trying to braid her main.

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speshrt February 22 2014 at 9:47 AM

I don't know who was responsible but I do know when something like that happens to you, it is part of you forever and you have feelings about it that may or may not change as time goes by. However until you are that person and walked in her shoes what entitles you to pass judgment on how thinks about it.? All kinds of comments here regarding how she should have handled this from people that are not qualified to pass judgment on her feelings. Maybe personal things in other folks minds should be dragged out, analyzed, and had judgment passed on how they are being handled. Maybe a little less judgment on whether Kerrigan has moved on would be appropriate-she has to move at her own speed and you know what? It does not affect my life and I don't feel like judging whether she is handling her life. I'm really, really busy with my own. We all have to work at our own speed.

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eaglephoenix2 February 22 2014 at 10:42 AM

The stupid press won't let them move on. And they hanpick quotes out of context to make it look like they are wanting to fight about it in the arena again.

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mahon February 22 2014 at 12:15 PM

As you said you didn't know her. You also said "when something like that happens it's part of you forever" well unless you have amnesia EVERTHING that happens in your life is part of you forever! You also noted that your "really, really busy with your own (life)' yet you had time to write this about something you yourself admitted you know nothing about! Interesting.

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algoresux February 22 2014 at 8:55 AM

The Korean girl Yuna Kim was robbed by corrupt Russian judges in Sochi. The Olympics are a cesspool. Putin and his regime are disgusting. Now they will attack Ukraine. While Obama dithers, the Russian Empire and all its evil is comming back. Dreadful things will happen soon.

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Jeanne February 22 2014 at 8:40 PM

Russians are technically better skaters. Let's face it, if Yulia from Russia wouldn't have fallen, she would have KILLED all others skaters. Yulia's talent, technical difficulty , and artistry is far superior to Yuna.

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Denise February 22 2014 at 8:52 AM

Sorrt, but.....get over it already! She hasn't 'moved on' at all.

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speshrt February 22 2014 at 9:35 AM

Clearly you haven't walked a mile in her shoes............

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