Over the years, the media has tended to portray Kerrigan as a hero and Harding as a villain. “She’s a princess. I’m a piece of crap,” Harding said in a 2014 ESPN documentary entitled The Price of Gold. But this is lazy characterization; the rival skaters are far more complex than that.
For one thing, Harding had a rough childhood. According to Tonya, her mother, LaVona Harding, was an angry drunk who heaped physical and psychological abuse on her. Growing up, Tonya lived in numerous different homes, a trailer park among them. Meanwhile, her mother took on serial husbands – seven in total.
But there was a way out for Tonya: figure skating. In fact, she began skating at the local mall at the age of four. And after years of dedicated practice, she emerged as the title winner at the 1991 U.S. Championships, where her routine included a technically challenging triple axel jump. Indeed, only eight women have ever managed the move in competition.