Tonya Harding's Skating Scandal
With Nancy on the sidelines, her biggest rival, Tonya Harding, skated to victory. As both women prepared to compete in the 1994 Winter Olympics, rumors began circulating that Tonya was involved in the assault, which caused an international media frenzy.
"This story had it all," Oprah says. "Drama, scandal, heartbreak, controversy [and] competition."
At a subsequent press conference, Tonya told reporters she had no prior knowledge of the planned assault on Nancy. "I am responsible, however, for failing to report things I learned about the assault," she said.
Despite this admission, Tonya was allowed to compete in the Olympic Games, making women's figure skating the event's biggest draw. More than 120 million people tuned in to see Nancy and Tonya face off on the ice.
Nancy took home the silver medal and became a media darling, while Tonya finished a disappointing eighth.
It's been 15 years since the scandal that rocked the sports world, but Tonya says it still hurts to think back about that time in her life. To this day, Tonya says she never wanted to prevent Nancy from competing.
"We both [were] out there trying to do the same thing, which is show the judges who the better figure skater is," she says. "I was training so hard. I was ready. … And I wanted to be the best when I finished."
"I felt hurt for her and scared because I didn't know what was going on," she says.
"Are you saying that, at the time, you thought somebody might come along and whack you in the knees?" Oprah says.
"Yes," Tonya says.
After her ex-husband was implicated, Tonya says she approached Nancy at the Olympics and apologized. "I apologized for being involved with the wrong type of people," she says. "I wished her the best."
If she could change the past, Tonya says she would have never married her first husband, Jeff, whom she claims was abusive. Tonya also wishes she'd had a better childhood. "I wish growing up I would have had a more stable life where my parents—I'm sure they tried the best they could—put me on the right path," she says.
When Tonya was 6 or 7 years old, she says her mother began physically and mentally abusing her. "She became very abusive [and was] drinking all day long," Tonya says. "Beating me, dragging me off the rink, hitting me with a hairbrush … right in front of everyone."
In response to her daughter's allegations. LaVona Golden, Tonya's mother, says she did hit Tonya once at a skating rink, but she also says she did the best she could as a mother.
When times are tough, Tonya says there's always one place she can go for refuge—a skating rink. "It's my sanctuary. I feel great when I'm out there," she says. "It doesn't matter what I do—I know that I was the best at one point. … It just makes me feel alive."
This self-proclaimed "daddy's girl" says she also skates to honor of her father, Al, who passed away in April 2009. "My dad used to watch me all the time on the ice," she says. "He would be very proud of me."
"[I would] tell her how proud I am of her being able to go forward with her life … and congratulations on her children," she says. "She's moved on. I've moved on. It's part of history that will always be with us, but it's time to move on."
For the past five years, Tonya says she's worked to turn her life around, help others and look toward the future. "Everybody has ups and downs. That's what life is. It's a roller coaster," she says. "You have to just deal with it and keep the faith. You have to love yourself so other people can love you."
Read about Tonya's comeback in the book The Tonya Tapes
In her own words, Tonya describes her chance at a figure skating comeback. Read an excerpt!
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