Nancy Kerrigan

Nancy Kerrigan Biography.com

Ice Skater, Athlete(1969–)
Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics despite being hit in the knee earlier in the year.

Synopsis

Born in Massachusetts in 1969, Nancy Kerrigan showed figure skating talent at an early age. She began training and competing in grammar school and won a bronze medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics. In January 1994, Kerrigan was attacked by a hitman hired by the ex-husband of skating rival Tonya Harding. Despite her knee injury, Kerrigan went on to win the silver medal at the 1994 Games.

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Early Life

Figure skater Nancy Ann Kerrigan was born on October 13, 1969, in Stoneham, Massachusetts, to homemaker Brenda and welder Daniel Kerrigan. As the youngest of three—and the only girl—Kerrigan often tagged along with her brothers to the neighborhood ice rink while they played hockey, becoming a self-described "tomboy."

Nancy Kerrigan's ice hockey background made it easy to transition into figure skating at the age of six. When an instructor commented on her talent, Nancy's family began investing in her Olympic career. She won the Boston Open, her first competition, at age 9. After her first taste of success, Kerrigan quickly went on to win both local and regional competitions. But her continued success cost money and, to make ends meet, Dan Kerrigan worked odd jobs and took out loans to support her aspirations.

Olympic Aspirations

Motivated by her dream, and her family's financial sacrifices, Kerrigan poured herself into her practices, rising at 4 a.m. each morning to attend training before her classes at Stoneham High School. After high school, Kerrigan enrolled in Emmanuel College, near her Stoneham home, where she majored in business. But Kerrigan hadn't abandoned her Olympic dreams, and only a year into her bachelor's degree, she entered and won the National Collegiate Championships. Months later, she took home a bronze medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival. The next year, she snagged a gold, earning the right to represent the United States at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France.

Kerrigan earned a bronze medal at Albertville, followed by her first national title at the U.S. Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona. The Olympian appeared to be entering the top of her game in 1993. Her poor performance at the 1993 World Games in Prague, however, sent her down to tenth place. Kerrigan expressed her humiliation to national TV crews after her plummet in the rankings. "I just want to die," Kerrigan told reporters in a storm of tears after the competition.

More determined than ever to make her parents proud, Kerrigan returned to training with a renewed vigor. Seeking counsel from a sports psychologist and limiting her public appearances, she returned to competition refreshed and ready to compete. The hard work paid off, and Kerrigan landed two big wins at major international competitions at the end of 1993.

Tragedy Strikes

Kerrigan would face a tragic career setback in January 1994, however, when she was hit in the knee with a collapsible baton at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan. The attacker, Shane Stant, had been hired as part of a planned assault by rival skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. The incident thrust Kerrigan into the national spotlight, and her cries of "Why me? Why now?" were captured on video and replayed repeatedly on national TV.

The attack seriously bruised Kerrigan's kneecap and quadriceps tendon, and prevented the skater from participating in the U.S. Championships due to her injuries. Due to the extenuating circumstances, the United States Figure Skating Association chose to name her to the Olympic team rather than second-place finisher Michelle Kwan. A month after the attack, Kerrigan surprised critics and wowed fans with a silver medal win at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, finishing second to Oksana Baiul by 0.1 points.

Post-Olympic Life

After her win, Kerrigan received several lucrative endorsements, including one from Walt Disney World, and retired from active competition. Since 1994, she has performed in a variety of ice skating shows; competed in the 2006 FOX television program, Skating with Celebrities; and appeared in the 2007 film Blades of Glory, starring Will Ferrell.

Kerrigan married her agent, Jerry Solomon, on September 9, 1995. They have three children, and currently reside in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.

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