On January 6, 1994, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after practice at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan, in what would become one of the biggest sports scandals in history.
The hitman was Shane Stant, who used a 21-inch collapsible baton to strike Kerrigan's right leg. He, along with his uncle Derrick Smith, were contracted by Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband of skating rival Tonya Harding, and Harding's bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt.
So how was Harding involved? Kerrigan was her longtime rival — the one person in the way of her making the Olympic team. Harding's desperation to win at all costs prompted Gillooly to set up the attack. (Though she didn't admit it at the time, Harding later confessed in 2018 that she "knew something was up.")
Thus, fierce competition and the lust for fame and fortune were the motivations behind taking Kerrigan down, bringing together a stranger-than-fiction motley crew of amateur hooligans. The crime had all the machinations fit for a tabloid soap opera, which was most recently depicted in the 2017 dark comedy I, Tonya.
Explore our photographic timeline of the infamous scandal.
February 14, 1991: Harding defeats Kerrigan
A peek into their long-standing rivalry, Harding beats Kerrigan at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The following month, she was triumphant again, winning silver to Kerrigan's bronze at the ISU World Championships in Germany. Harding also became the first American woman to perform a triple axel successfully in a competition that year.
January 6, 1994: Kerrigan is attacked
Fast forward three years later, and Kerrigan becomes the victim of Harding and Gillooly's lust to win. Hired hitman Stant clubs Kerrigan's right knee and cameras were able to capture the immediate aftermath. The following day on January 7, newspapers plastered Kerrigan's traumatized face on their covers as she screamed out in tears, “Why? Why? Why? Why me?”
Fortunately for Kerrigan, the injury left her with just bruises – no broken bones. Unfortunately for Kerrigan, her injury was severe enough that she was forced to pull out of competing in the national championships the following night.
January 8, 1994: Harding wins gold
Tonya Harding pumps her fists as she finishes her gold medal-winning program at the women's championship on January 8, 1994">
Harding wins gold at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and is guaranteed a spot at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway — just as she had hoped. Still, in support of Kerrigan who had to forgo the competition due to the attack, her fellow skaters offered her a spot to compete in the Olympics as well.
January 12, 1994: Eckardt confesses
After an FBI investigation is launched into Harding's bodyguard, Eckhardt, on January 12, Eckardt confesses to his involvement in the attack and incriminates Stant, Gillooly and Smith, who was the driver of the getaway car.
January 14, 1994: Kerrigan holds a press conference
Kerrigan tries her best to remain positive at a press conference after a number of the criminals were formally charged. At the same time, the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) deliberates on whether Harding should compete in the Olympics and ultimately decides that she is allowed to since — aside from her repeated denials of being involved in Kerrigan's attack — no evidence has emerged to contradict her claims.
January 27, 1994: Gillooly confesses
As the mastermind behind Kerrigan's attack, Gillooly would later surrender to the FBI four days later after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Although Harding would continue to deny any involvement, Gillooly would confess on January 27 that he orchestrated the assault and would also implicate Harding, Eckhardt, Stant and Smith.
Still, around this time, Harding denies involvement, issuing the following statement to the press: "Despite my mistakes and rough edges, I have done nothing to violate the standards of excellence in sportsmanship that are expected in an Olympic athlete."
On February 1, in exchange for a lighter sentence, Gillooly testifies against his ex-wife and pleads guilty to the crime of racketeering. Days later, Gillooly and Harding's trash was recovered, revealing notes of Kerrigan's practice schedule in Massachusetts. A handwriting expert confirms that the notes were written by Harding.
After some tense jockeying between the U.S. Olympic Committee and Harding on whether she could compete in the Olympics, the committee decides she can participate.
February 17, 1994: Harding and Kerrigan take the ice
With all of the allegations swirling around Harding, the press is in a frenzy when she and Kerrigan share the ice at an Olympic practice session for the first time since the January 6 attack. Kerrigan purposely wears the same outfit she had on when she was assaulted as she skates around Harding. Kerrigan later tells the press: "Humor is good, it's empowering."
February 25, 1994: Harding's shoelace breaks
On the night of the Olympics, Harding abruptly stops performing during her first skate due to a broken shoelace. Although she's allowed a re-skate, it proves pointless. Harding ultimately comes in eighth place at the Olympics, with many people calling the results "karma."
February 25, 1994: Kerrigan wins silver medal
With high expectations to win gold due to the infamous events that propelled her into the media spotlight, Kerrigan skates her best yet, but still falls short of gold, thanks to a surprise upset by 16-year-old Ukrainian Oksana Baiul. Taking silver, Kerrigan appears to be displeased and later gets caught on camera complaining about Baiul who was causing a delay in the medal ceremony. “Oh, come on. So she’s going to get out here and cry again. What’s the difference?” Kerrigan said, not knowing the cameras were rolling.
March 16, 1994: Harding pleads guilty
With evidence mounted against her, Harding officially pleads guilty to the charge of "conspiracy to hinder prosecution." She receives three years probation and is slapped with a $160,000 fine. A few months later, her 1994 national championships title is revoked, and she is banned from the USFSA forever.
With the exception of Harding, everyone else involved in Kerrigan's attack serves jail time.