Nancy and Tonya, 10 Years Later

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
The primetime broadcast of the Olympic winter games on Feb. 23, 1994, is still the sixth-highest rated television program in U.S. history.

It was the competition between figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, who had been implicated in an attack on Kerrigan. The world had been waiting seven weeks to see how they would fare in the Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway.

On Jan. 6, 1994, Kerrigan had just finished a practice session in Detroit where she hoped to defend her title as the U.S. National Champion.

Kerrigan recalls, "I was walking back to take my skates off, go into the dressing room, and I was hit by something, a retractable wand that police use. So metal, it's obviously very hard. And it was just, was extremely, extremely painful.

"I remember my dad scooping me up and they brought me into a room. And I didn't understand, you know, what happened."

It soon became obvious that the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was not a random act. Jeff Gillooly, the former husband of her rival Tonya Harding, had hired a hit man who whacked Kerrigan's right knee.

Harding has never admitted having prior knowledge of the assault.

In 1994, during a press conference, Harding stated, "I am responsible however for failing. [Pausing after choking]. Excuse me. For failing to report things I learned about the assault when I returned home from nationals."

The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith asked her in a recent interview, "You stick with that."

"Oh, absolutely," she answered. He continued, "You stand by that story to this second."

"Absolutely," she replied.

To Kerrigan, he asked if the two of them had talked about the incident. She said no. As for Harding apologizing, Kerrigan says,"In the same way somebody on the street would say, I'm so sorry this happened to you. In that respect, once, yes, like that." But never "that she had anything to do with it. Or that even her people that surrounded her did, no."

Kerrigan was placed on the Olympic team. She trained in a swimming pool and a gym, while the world wondered how she would skate.

Asked if there is any way to describe what had happened, Harding tells Smith, "A disaster. It was absolutely horrible."

Kerrigan says, "It was, the whole thing was bizarre."

Days after the attack, the skaters met face-to-face at a U.S. Olympic team photo shoot and they shared practice time in Norway.

Kerrigan's hard work paid off. On Feb.23, she had the highest score in the short program at the winter games, eventually winning a silver medal.

Two nights later, a broken lace interrupted Harding's skate in the long program. She skated again but finished eighth.

On the other hand, Nancy Kerrigan skated the performance of her life.

Looking back she says, "I was so proud of myself. Sort of looking at myself as someone else almost."

About her performance Scott Hamilton said, "She's been through so much to deliver this performance. What a great moment for Nancy Kerrigan."

Reflecting on it, Kerrigan says, "I mean I just was so amazed that I could go through that and make that happen."

Four judges placed Kerrigan first. But five, all from former eastern bloc countries, gave the gold to a 16-year-old from the Ukraine, Oksana Baiul. One of the judges turned out to be the father of Oksana Baiul's first coach.

Kerrigan says, "I don't think that getting a gold medal as opposed to a silver would have changed my life at all."

Facing the music after the Olympics, four co-conspirators went to jail. Plea bargaining kept Harding free. She was fined $150,000 and performed 500 hours of community service. She was later stripped of her 1994 national title and banned for life by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Kerrigan has been busy over the past 10 years. She married her agent and had a son, Matthew. Kerrigan's mother is legally blind and Kerrigan's foundation has worked to raise support for the visually impaired. There have been skating specials; she's done some broadcasting; and some singing. When she skates these days, she can skate to her own music.

Asked if she is living happily ever after, Kerrigan says with a laugh, "I'm only 34 so ever after may be too soon. I'm very happy. Skating has opened so many other doors for me."

Next spring, she'll be heard in an animated movie, "The Easter Egg Escapade". Matthew, now 7, also has a role.

Kerrigan says, "He's pretty excited about that. Hs first job," and laughs.

As for Harding, she says, "You know, everybody's made mistakes. Everybody's had tragic things happen in their lives. But what good is to just sit there and just let yourself die."

Harding has been busy as well. She lives off of her image as America's "bad girl".

Nearly two years ago, Harding appeared in a made-for-TV Celebrity Boxing event, beating Paula Jones.

Asked what she likes about being in the ring, she says, "It's all about me and the other person. It's who the better athlete is. Yes, there are judges. But, I mean if you knock somebody down [laughs], that pretty much says it all."

In 1991, Harding won the U.S. figure skating title and finished second in the world. She is still the only American woman to land a triple axle in competition.

"A year and a half ago, I could still do it," she says.

Asked if there is ever a day that she thinks maybe the skating world will open up to her again, she says, "I don't care if they do or not. I mean I have a new life."

Kerrigan, though never comfortable with the "Nancy and Tonya" connection, does sound sympathetic when she thinks of what might have been for Harding.

Kerrigan says, "She had so much talent and some of the biggest jumps in skating. It's a shame that her talent went to waste, really, because of all of it."

Harding says, "It was actually a waste of a life and a career. But now, I have a new life and I've started a new career. And I'm happy. (Eyes tear up) You know, I can't look back and change anything. I just have to deal with it and go on."

Nancy Kerrigan was inducted into the U.S. figure skating hall of fame last month. Tonya Harding has won three fights, lost two and had her nose broken twice as a pro boxer, earning about $12,000-$15,000 per fight. She'll fight next in Canada in March. But on Tuesday, she joins The Early Show live in Central Park for a special figure skating performance at Wollman Rink.

Nancy Kerrigan's "Colors of Winter," in which she skates to her song "We Can Go The Distance," will air on Cablevision's Voom service later this year in high definition.