Tonya Maxene Harding (born November 12, 1970) is an American former figure skater who also boxed professionally after her skating career ended. She was the 1991 U.S. champion and 1991 World Championship silver medallist. Harding was also a two-time Olympian and a two-time Skate America Champion. She was the first woman to successfully execute two triple Axels in a single competition, and the first to complete a triple Axel in combination with a double toe loop. In 1994 she was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association after pleading guilty to hindering the prosecution following the attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. Harding is the subject of the 2017 biographical movie I, Tonya.
|Full name||Tonya Maxene Harding|
|Country represented||United States|
|Born|| November 12, 1970
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)|
|Coach||Diane Rawlinson, Dody Teachman|
Tonya Harding was born on November 12, 1970 in Portland, Oregon, to LaVona Golden (b. 1940) and Alan Harding (1933–2009). Harding was raised in Portland, and began skating at age three. As a youth, Harding also hunted, drag raced, and learned car mechanics from her father. Her mother, who struggled to help support the family while she worked as a waitress, hand-sewed Harding's skating costumes for competitions.
Harding had a troubled childhood, stating that by the time she was seven years old, she was both mentally and physically abused by her mother. Her mother has admitted to one instance of hitting Tonya at an ice rink. She stopped attending David Douglas High School in Portland during her sophomore year and later earned a GED.
In the mid-1980s, Harding began working her way up the competitive skating ladder. She placed sixth at the 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, fifth in 1987 and 1988, and third in 1989. After winning Skate America in 1989, she was considered a strong contender at the 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but she was suffering from the flu and asthma and had a poor free skate. After the original program, she dropped from second place and finished seventh overall. She was a powerful free skater and typically had lower placements in the compulsory figures.
Harding's breakthrough year came in 1991, when she landed her first triple axel at the U.S. Championships and won the title with the event's first 6.0 ever given to a single female skater for technical merit. At the 1991 World Championships, she again completed the triple axel—becoming the first American woman to perform it at an international event—and finished first.
At the Fall 1991 Skate America, Harding recorded three more firsts:
Despite these record-breaking performances, she was never able to successfully perform the triple axel in a competition after 1991, and her competitive results began to decline as a result. In 1992, she placed third in the U.S. Championships after twisting her ankle in practice. She finished fourth in the 1992 Winter Olympics, and in the 1992 World Championships, she placed sixth in a weak field. In the 1993 season, she skated poorly in the U.S. Championships and failed to qualify for the World Championship team.
Following legal controversy, Harding was permitted to remain a member of the U.S. ice skating team at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She was given a re-skate in the long program and finished in eighth place, far behind Oksana Baiul (gold) and Nancy Kerrigan (silver).
|Skate Canada International||4th|
|U.S. Olympic Festival||2nd|
|Prize of Moscow News||1st|
^† In June 1994, Claire Ferguson and the U.S. Figure Skating Association voted to strip Harding of her 1994 title. However, the competition results were not changed and the title was left vacant rather than moving all the other competitors up one position.
On January 6, 1994, Harding's main team competitor Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by an assailant later identified as Shane Stant after a practice session at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, hired Stant to break Kerrigan's right leg so that she would be unable to compete at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. After failing to find Kerrigan at her training rink in Massachusetts, Stant followed her to Detroit. When she stepped off the ice after a practice session at Cobo Arena and walked behind a nearby curtain into a corridor, Stant struck her knee a few inches above the ankle with an ASP telescopic baton. Her leg was only bruised, not broken, but the injury forced her to withdraw from the national championship. Harding won that event, and she and Kerrigan were both selected for the 1994 Olympic team. Harding finished eighth in Lillehammer, while Kerrigan, by then fully recovered from the injury, won the silver medal behind Oksana Baiul from Ukraine.
The attack on Kerrigan and the news of Harding's alleged involvement led to a media frenzy. Kerrigan appeared on the cover of both TIME and Newsweek magazines in January 1994. Reporters and TV news crews attended Harding's practices in Portland and camped out in front of Kerrigan's home. CBS assigned Connie Chung to follow her every move in Lillehammer. Four hundred members of the press jammed into the practice rink in Norway. Scott Hamilton complained that "the world press was turning the Olympics into just another sensational tabloid event." The tape-delayed broadcast of the short program at the Olympics remains one of the most watched telecasts in American history.
On February 1, 1994, Gillooly accepted a plea offer in exchange for his testimony against Harding. Gillooly, Stant, Eckhardt, and getaway car driver Derrick Smith all served time in prison for the attack. Eckhardt was sentenced to 18 months in prison for racketeering but was released four months early in September 1995.
Harding avoided further prosecution and a possible jail sentence by pleading guilty on March 16 to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers. She received three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $160,000 fine. As part of the plea bargain, she was also forced to withdraw from the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships and resign from the United States Figure Skating Association. On June 30, 1994, after conducting its own investigation of the attack, the USFSA stripped her of her 1994 U.S. Championships title and banned her for life from participating in USFSA-run events as either a skater or a coach. The USFSA concluded that she knew about the attack before it happened and displayed "a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship and ethical behavior". Although the USFSA has no control over non-competitive professional skating events, she was also persona non grata on the pro circuit because few skaters and promoters would work with her. Consequently, she failed to benefit from the professional skating boom that ensued in the aftermath of the scandal.
In her 2008 autobiography, The Tonya Tapes, Harding states that she wanted to call the FBI to reveal what she knew, but decided not to when Gillooly allegedly threatened her with death following a gunpoint gang rape by him and two other men she did not know. He subsequently changed his name to Jeff Stone and called the allegations "utterly ridiculous." Eckhardt, who legally changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith following his release from jail, died of natural causes at age 40 on December 12, 2007.
On June 22, 1994, in Portland, Oregon, Harding appeared on an AAA professional wrestling show as the manager for wrestling stable Los Gringos Locos. The night's performance included Art Barr, Eddie Guerrero, and Brian Cox.
|Real name||Tonya Maxene Harding|
|Height||5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)|
|Wins by KO||0|
In 2002 she boxed against Paula Jones on the Fox TV network Celebrity Boxing event, winning the fight. On February 22, 2003, she made her official women's professional boxing debut, losing a four-round decision in the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne bout, amid rumors that she was having financial difficulties and needed to fight in the ring to earn money. She did another celebrity boxing match, on The Man Show, and won against co-host Doug Stanhope. Stanhope later claimed on his podcast that the fight was fixed because Tonya Harding refused to "fight a man".
On June 24, 2004, after reportedly not having boxed for over a year, she was beaten in a match in Edmonton, Alberta, by Amy Johnson. Fans reportedly booed her as she entered the ring and cheered wildly for Johnson as she won in the third round.
|3 Wins (3 decisions), 3 Losses (2 knockouts, 1 decision), 0 Draws|
|2004-06-25||Amy Johnson||Loss||TKO||3 (4), 1:04||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada|
|2003-08-02||Melissa Yanas||Loss||TKO||1 (4), 1:13||Dallas, Texas, U.S.|
|2003-06-13||Emily Gosa||Win||Decision (unanimous)||4 (4)||Lincoln City, Oregon, U.S.|
|2003-03-28||Alejandra Lopez||Win||Decision (unanimous)||4 (4)||Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|2003-03-15||Shannon Birmingham||Win||Decision (unanimous)||4 (4)||Gulfport, Mississippi, U.S.|
|2003-02-22||Samantha Browning||Loss||Decision (split)||4 (4)||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
Harding married Jeff Gillooly in 1990, when she was 19 years old. Their tumultuous marriage ended in divorce in 1993. She married her second husband, Michael Smith, in 1995 and divorced in 1996. She married 42-year-old Joseph Jens Price on June 23, 2010. She gave birth to her only child, a son named Gordon, on February 19, 2011.
Tonya Harding was actually very quiet, nice and sweet, not at all like the crowbar-swinging ho the press made her out to be. Of course, she had no idea who we were. She was just earning a paycheck, capitalizing on whatever was left of her fifteen minutes of fame.
When disgraced Olympic skater Tonya Harding took to the stage in Portland, Ore., earlier this month under her new guise as a pop singer, she showed none of the biker-girl swagger that once so unsettled the skating world. Mostly what she and the other members of the Golden Blades felt was the derision of 10,000 raucous music festival fans, who jeered and tossed soda bottles onto the stage, forcing the Blades to beat a retreat.
Harding will appear with her band, The Golden Blades, at a concert Sunday to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The band will perform "light pop" music, possibly including a Madonna song, according to Kellie Shipp of KKRZ-FM, the radio station that invited Harding to perform.
TONYA HARDING...was being saluted as a hero yesterday, after helping to save a woman's life Sunday night at a bar in suburban Portland, Ore., near her home. Shortly after Harding and her godmother LINDA LEWIS stopped at the Lost and Found Saloon to play video poker, ALICE OLSON, 81, collapsed and stopped breathing. Harding called 911 with her cellular phone and administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.