Tonya Harding tells her side of the story in an upcoming two-hour ABC special, Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story – and paints a very different picture of her involvement and reaction to the infamous 1994 attack on figure skating rival Nancy Kerrigan, which catapulted her into the sports villain hall of fame.
“I was scared,” she told ABC News’ Amy Robach. “I mean, this had never happened [before].”
On January 6th, 1994, Kerrigan was clubbed on her right knee with a baton by a masked assailant while at a practice session for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit.
It was later revealed that the man had links to Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and his friend, Shawn Eckhart. Harding was implicated in the men’s malicious scheme and was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association, in addition to having to pay a $160,000 fine and being sentenced to three years’ probation and 500 hours community service.
She has always maintained that she was not involved in the attack, though she did plead guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution (hence the fine and probation sentencing).
“I knew something was up,” she admitted when asked point-blank whether she had any clue that a plot against Kerrigan was underway. She denies she had any knowledge beyond a few hints Gillooly dropped in casual conversation with a friend.
“I did, however, overhear them talking about stuff, where, ‘Well, maybe we should take somebody out so we can make sure she gets on the team,'” she said. “And I remember telling them, I go, ‘What the hell are you talking about? I can skate.'”
In a teaser for the interview, set to air Thursday, Harding (whose ordeal is told in the acclaimed film I, Tonya) said that “nobody wanted to ever believe” her story, and that she was “always the bad person.”
“I never understood that,” she said.
In an interview with Piers Morgan Tuesday, Harding tried to abruptly end the conversation when the British talk show host accused her of playing the victim in the situation, despite the fact that Kerrigan was the one who suffered physical injury.
“Thank you so much,” she said on Good Morning Britain. “I appreciate being on your show, but I think I’m going to have to say have a good night.”
When Morgan then asked if Harding was ending the interview because he said that Kerrigan was the real victim in the situation, Harding countered that it was because he wouldn’t let her finish.
“I think that many people are the victims of abuse every single day, and can’t stand up for themselves,” she said. “People need to be able to understand that we need to stand united, and that abuse should not be happening anymore.”