In 1991, Tonya Harding won her first national title and became the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition. In 1994, she earned notoriety when ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired a hitman to injure skater Nancy Kerrigan at the Olympic trials. Harding pleaded guilty to hindering the investigation into Kerrigan's attack, and was subsequently banned from competing in the U.S. for life. Since then, she has made guest appearances on shows like Rosanne, Larry King Live, The Weakest Link and Celebrity Boxing, and made her official debut as a professional boxer in 2003.
Early Life and Career
Figure skater and boxer Tonya Maxine Harding was born in Portland, Oregon, on November 12, 1970. The daughter of LaVona and Al Harding, she began skating at the age of 3, and dropped out of high school during her sophomore year to pursue the sport.
Tonya Harding won her first national title in 1991, also becoming the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition. She went on to take the silver medal at the world championships, place fourth at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France (the last Winter Games to be held the same year as the Summer Olympic Games), and earn her second national title, winning gold at the 1994 U.S. Championships.
Nancy Kerrigan Attack and Lifetime Ban
In January 1994, the young skater earned notoriety when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, hired a hitman to take out fellow U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. The attack seriously bruised Kerrigan's kneecap and quadriceps tendon, and prevented her from participating in the U.S. Championships.
Harding pleaded guilty to hindering the investigation into Kerrigan's attack, which allowed her to avoid jail time. Under the plea bargain, Harding was stripped of her '94 national title and banned from competing in the U.S. for life. Despite her knee injury, Kerrigan went on to win the silver medal at the 1994 Games.
Since 1994, Harding has sought the spotlight in other ways, including several television guest appearances on shows such as Rosanne, Larry King Live and The Weakest Link. She has also participated in televised celebrity boxing matches, garnering fame for her winning bout against Paula Jones on the popular FOX show Celebrity Boxing in 2002.
Harding made her official debut as a professional boxer—a career she would hold only briefly—in February 2003, losing the undercard match of the Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne bout in a four-round decision.
Harding continues to skate today, and according to her website, she can still do the triple axel. "I just want to be me, and skating is me," the skater said, according to her site. "I don't want to compete. I'd like to have my own skating show, though."
Harding was married to first husband Jeff Gillooly, who pleaded guilty to helping Harding plan the Kerrigan attack, from 1990 until '93, when the couple divorced. She was married to Michael Smith from 1995 to '96.
In June 2010, Harding married third husband Joseph Jens Price, a commentator on the popular truTV program The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest, who previously had a brief stint as a boxer. Harding became a mother for the first time on February 27, 2011, when she gave birth to the couple's first child, a son.
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