Tonya Harding is an American former professional figure skater who, in January, 1994, was the intended beneficiary of a plot to break the leg of her arch rival Nancy Kerrigan, thereby ending her hopes of selection for the US Olympic team. According to Harding, the plot was hatched by her ex-husband Jetff Gillooly and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt who, in turn, hired a third man, later identifed as Shane Stant, to physically carry out the attack.
On the eve of the US Figure Skating Championships, at the Coba Arena in downtown Detroit, Michigan, Stant accosted Kerrigan as she was returning from a training session and struck her on the leg with a telescopic police baton. He did not break her leg, but bruised her lower right thigh so badly that she could not compete in the national championships, which Harding duly won to secure her place in the Olympic team.
Kerrigan’s withdrawal from the nationals did not, as first thought, preclude Olympic selection and, having recovered, she travelled alongside Harding to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lille, Norway. Indeed, in the ladies’ singles, Kerrigan won the silver medal, while Harding finished only eighth. On their return to the United States, Harding accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to conspiring to hinder the investigation into the assault on Kerrigan in return for community service, a fine and three years’ probation, rather than a jail sentence. The following June, she was, nonetheless, banned for life, as a participant or coach, by the US Figure Skating Association.