Nancy Kerrigan opened up for the first time about the Whack Heard 'Round the World Sunday on NBC's documentary Nancy & Tonya. And befitting someone who has avoided the spotlight the past 20 years, she doesn't waste many words describing the scandal that ushered in the age of salacious celebrity headlines.
It's sad," Kerrigan said. "The bizarre craziness that all transpired — it's all sad."
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Kerrigan was infamously clubbed in the knee at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in an attack hatched by Tonya Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and clumsily executed by Shane Stant, who jumped through a Plexi-glass door to flee. Though many people, including Harding's former coach, entertained the possibility that Harding was somehow linked to it, Kerrigan revealed that she initially never thought her archrival could be part of the attack.
"I had people asking me, 'Do you think she had anything to do with it?'" she said. "My reaction was, 'That's ridiculous.' To me, this had to have been some random act." Even after Gillooly, Stant and another associate, Shawn Eckhardt, were arrested, Kerrigan said she still gave the benefit of the doubt to Harding, who pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution, claiming she learned of the scheme after the assault. "I can remember saying even to the FBI, 'Well, maybe Tonya really didn't know. Maybe they did it for her.' And they're like, 'Nancy, we can't prove it, but we think she was the mastermind of the whole thing.'"
Harding — whose establishing shot was a surreal scene of her singing karaoke to "Through the Eyes of Love" in an empty bar — staunchly insisted, as she always had, that she was not involved. She also said that the two used to be friends and that she has apologized numerous times to Kerrigan, including for the final time face-to-face in 1998 on a staged apology show. Kerrigan, however, stated they were not friends and that Harding has never admitted any wrongdoing. "I have apologized so many times that it's not worth — I'm sorry, she is not worth my time anymore," Harding said.
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While Harding's defiant demeanor is nothing new, Kerrigan, who said she has always been "painfully" shy, defended herself for the first time against the criticism and inaccurate labels that have been placed on her. In the ensuing media frenzy and scrutiny, the press and public turned on Kerrigan, mocking her anguished "Why? Why?" cry as the wail of an ungrateful, privileged ice princess, when in fact she grew up in a working-class, blue-collar family with a father who worked two jobs.
"Some people said it was whiny. 'Oh, the ice princess is whining.' Whining?! I wasn't whining. I had just been hit with a metal baton by a big, strong person," she said. "If you've never been attacked, you have no idea what you would do."
Two other incidents caused Kerrigan to fall out of sympathy after she recovered to win the silver medal at the Lillehammer Olympics six weeks later. She was branded a sore loser when she was caught snipping that gold medalist Oksana Baiul, whom Kerrigan was told was getting a makeup touch-up for the medal ceremony, would just cry again, and she was later filmed calling a Disney World parade she was in "corny."
"I wasn't finding fault in any way," Kerrigan said of the Baiul comment. "I'm like, 'Yeah, let's go! Let's get that cry on. C'mon, people are leaving. They're going to miss it.' There was literally no harm in my intentions behind that."
The Disney World remarks, she explained, were about wearing her medal in the parade, as she had been taught by her childhood coach not to do so in public. "It was always not OK to do something like that. That's bragging," she said. "Someone took that as I was talking negatively about Mickey Mouse, which didn't make any sense."
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Kerrigan, now a full-time mom of three, said she doesn't dwell on the past, but wistfully expressed sadness at the detour her life took. "I would have chosen a different path if I could," she said. "I would've liked to have just done what I worked so hard for and not have to be linked like that. I could be linked as 'we're teammates' as opposed to this horrific act."
For her part, Harding, who has a 3-year-old son and does landscaping with her husband, wants to move on from the scandal after spending years capitalizing on her name.
"You guys, this '20-year thing' ... whatever. It's like, I'm done," she said. "Nobody wants to hear this crap anymore. And you know what? I don't give a damn."
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