Tonya Harding Figure Skating

August 16, 2018
January 1994 incident[edit]

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding at a practice session at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding at a practice session at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

Why would a couple of comedians build a museum in their Brooklyn apartment hallway dedicated to figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan?

Viviana Olen and Matt Harkins were only 6 and 7 in 1994, when Harding's ex-husband and his friend plotted to wallop Kerrigan on the knee with a baton, knocking her out of the national championship.

Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen hide caption

toggle caption Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen

Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen

Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen

"We remember a very Disney version of the story, " says Olen. "You know, this crazy, trashy person beat up the beautiful ice princess."

"It's just a great documentary, " says Harkins of The Price of Gold by Nanette Burstein, part of ESPN's 30 for 30 anniversary series. "We couldn't stop talking about it."

"It digs so deep, " Olen says. "It's such an American story, and it is such a soap opera, like Dynasty on ice."

"It is a very real museum with very real artifacts in a very long hallway that would have just been wasted space, " the museum website explains.

"It is a very real museum with very real artifacts in a very long hallway that would have just been wasted space, " the museum web site explains. Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen hide caption

toggle caption Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen

"It is a very real museum with very real artifacts in a very long hallway that would have just been wasted space, " the museum web site explains.

Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen

Now the space is filled with artifacts, posters, needleworks and a diorama devoted to the drama and tragedy of the attack that rocked the skating world and enthralled the media.

On the one hand was Harding, with her fluff of blonde bangs, home-made skating dresses and working-class Oregonian background. She was a national champion and an Olympian, the first U.S. woman to land a triple Axel in competition.

Caligraphy on display at the museum."She came from nowhere, " Olen says. "She was this tough scrapper. She was so hard-core, she had nothing to lose ... But she showed that if you work hard enough, if you're driven enough, you can be the best."

Then there's rival national champion Kerrigan, brunette, tall and lithe, wearing skating dresses designed by Vera Wang. She was the rule-follower, explains Harkins. She was a perfect fit for the glamour of the skating world.

Kerrigan was captured on camera just after the attack, which followed a practice session at the U.S. championship in Detroit. She sat crumpled in the hallway, clutching her leg, wailing "Why? Why?" as stunned officials crowded around.

The attack was bumbling. Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt, had hired a hit man to break Kerrigan's leg, but the blow only bruised her.

Kerrigan was unable to compete in the national championship, which Harding won, but was named to the Olympic team and won a silver medal in Lillehammer, Norway. Harding finished eighth.

Gillooly later pled guilty to racketeering. Harding got probation for conspiring to hinder the prosecution.

Photographers and reporters beset Harding and her lawyer outside the district attorney's office in Portland, Ore., in 1994, after the attack on Kerrigan. Steve Slocum/AP hide caption

toggle caption Steve Slocum/AP

Photographers and reporters beset Harding and her lawyer outside the district attorney's office in Portland, Ore., in 1994, after the attack on Kerrigan.

Steve Slocum/AP

"She had this terrible thing happen to her, " Harkins says of Kerrigan. "You see her going through physical therapy and rehearsing, and then she goes right back on the ice and competes, wearing the same white dress ... She shows up with all the cameras pointed at her and all the judges watching her.

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