Nancy and Tonya, together again

Interview with former rivals made for TV

Posted: Thu February 5, 1998 at 3:33 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ah, together again -- Tonya and Nancy, inextricably linked by skating, supermarket tabloids and a stranger-than-fiction mix of Olympic ambition and thuggery.

The two estranged figure skaters have been reunited for a television interview, but it was no love festival. When Tonya Harding asked Nancy Kerrigan how she was, a queasy Kerrigan looked at her lap instead of the one-time rival whose former husband schemed to smash her kneecap.

"Fine," she said quietly. And so the occasionally uncomfortable interview began.

It's been four years since Harding's ex-husband tried to give his sweetie a shot at a gold medal by arranging to bash Kerrigan at a competition in Detroit just weeks before the Lillehammer Games.

The attack sent interest in the already popular sport skyrocketing, as evidenced by the large number of skating exhibitions that now fill American air time. With another Olympics at hand, Fox television brought the skaters together for "Breaking the Ice: The Women of '94 Revisited."

"I would hope we could go on and live our separate lives," Harding said in an excerpt. "I just ask for forgiveness.

"Nancy, I want to apologize for being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Harding added, according to a story in Thursday's New York Post.

"I would have done anything to stop it, anything."


Kerrigan's answer? Fox wouldn't say in advance of the two-hour show airing Thursday night. But in the Post's account, when host James Brown asks Kerrigan, "How do you regard [Harding] now?" Kerrigan responds, "I don't."

The show also has interviews and performances with other skaters, Kerrigan's family and even Harding's ex-husband, the former Jeff Gillooly (after serving a prison term for racketeering in the Kerrigan attack, he changed his name to Jeff Stone).

Brown interviewed Harding and Kerrigan separately before their December 22 meeting in New York for a 10- to 15-minute joint interview.

The network paid Harding and Kerrigan at least $100,000 each to talk and skate. "They welcomed the opportunity to perform and to try to bring closure to this event," said Fox Sports president David Hill.

The timing of the show is no surprise, coming one day before the start of the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Fox hoped to double its usual Thursday night audience.

That may not be far-fetched, given the public's once-mighty obsession with the Nancy-Tonya affair. On their first night of skating at Lillehammer, barely seven weeks after the bungled attack on Kerrigan, nearly half of America's TV sets were tuned in to the face-off for a gold medal -- the third-highest rated show in history.

It was unsung Oksana Baiul of Ukraine who collected the gold medal. Kerrigan, despite a brilliant performance, finished second. Harding was eighth.

Harding, now 27, avoided jail time, but never escaped the sordid mess and her tarnished image. The chain-smoking blonde pleaded guilty to covering up the attack, lost her national title and was banned forever from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. She appeared in a low-budget movie as a waitress, and even turned down an offer to wrestle in Japan.

Kerrigan, now 28 and married with a 1-year-old son, returned to endorsements and appearances that left the dark-haired skater financially set for life. Last year she skated with a corporate-sponsored tour of world figure skating champions.

In Thursday's show, interviewer James Brown confronts Harding with evidence from FBI files, including reports that Gillooly and his co-conspirators briefly considered killing Kerrigan before deciding a whack on the knee would do the job.


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