On this day in 1994, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked at a Detroit ice rink following a skating practice two days before the 1994 Olympic tryouts. Kerrigan was attacked on the back of her knee in a plan hatched up by Tonya Harding, Kerrigan’s main rival for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating team.
In December 1993, Tonya Harding and her now ex-husband Jeff Gillooly began devising a plan to remove Nancy Kerrigan from the Olympic trials. Gillooly met with Derrick Smith and Shane Stant who agreed to attack Kerrigan in exchange for pay.
On January 6th, after a skating practice at a local rink in Detroit, Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the right knee by Shane Stant with a police baton. Stant got away with Smith driving the getaway car, leaving Kerrigan injured, grabbing her knee, wailing “Why, why, why?” The injury to her right knee left Kerrigan unable to participate in the qualifying competition for the Olympics, however the United States Figure Skating Association ruled that Kerrigan deserved one of the two positions on the Olympic team. Tonya Harding won the qualifying competition and was consequently the second member of the Olympic team.
After Smith and Stant came forward and confessed to the attack, Gillooly was charged with conspiracy to attack Kerrigan. Gillooly made a deal with prosecutors however to implicate Harding as the mastermind of the whole attack. Faced with these allegations, Harding refused to give up her spot on the Olympic team, threatening to sue the United States Olympic Committee if they kicked her off the team. Both the attacker and attackee would compete against each other at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, setting an bizarre dynamic to the competition and ratings records for the Games.
At Lillehammer, Harding placed 8th, after the lace on her skates broke and being allowed a restart. Kerrigan on the other hand rebuilt her strength from the attack and was able to win a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics. Kerrigan’s performance was so exemplary that many believed she should have won the gold medal. Back in the United States, Harding plead guilty to conspiracy to attack Nancy Kerrigan, and was fined $100000, sentenced to probation and 500 hours of community service.