By S. Lawrence Bueno
Catch a glimpse of Tonya Harding’s life which ultimately revolved around figure skating – a sport where makeup and costumes are essential. Those who are not fortunate enough to own appealing items are prone to fail.
Figure skating was the first winter sport to be introduced at the 1908 Olympics in London. 65 years later, in 1973, Harding initiated her distinct career when she was only 3 years old. During her sophomore year, Tonya dropped out of high school to pursue ice skating. She would later on earn her GED (General Educational Development), but what assuredly asserted Tonya a place among the globe’s most prominent sportsmen, was her being the first woman to ever accomplish the ‘Triple Axel’, an act where skaters must soar into the air while bending their knees. It is the most demanding figure skating leap.
The Axel features three phases: the entrance phase, the flight phase (when the skater spins into the air), the landing phase (which occurs when the skater's blade strikes the ice) and concludes when they are securely skating backwards on the full outside edge of the rink with one leg behind in the air.
Tonya Harding phenomenally became the first woman to land a triple axel jump in a competition at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
How could America’s sweetheart possibly be maltreated?
Well, it’s safe to say that human nature is hungry for power.
Harding was married to her first husband, Jeff Gillooly, from 1990 until 1993. He often served as Harding's manager, but did he really deserve such an elevated role in Tonya’s life when she accused him of abuse?
Harding gained even more recognition in January 1994, when Gillooly hired a hitman to assault fellow American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan before the US Figure Skating Championships.
Kerrigan's kneecap and quadriceps tendon were severely wounded when the hitman struck her with a police baton, preventing her from competing in the championship.
Kerrigan and Harding had competed against each other for years, including in the 1992 Olympic Games, when Kerrigan took home bronze and Harding took home fourth. The aim of the 1994 attack was to prevent Kerrigan from skating in the Olympic Games in Norway that year. However, Kerrigan went on to earn a silver medal in the 1994 Olympic Games despite her knee injury.
Gillooly later confessed to helping Harding in the plotting of her opponent, Kerrigan’s assault. After serving time in jail, he altered his identity to Jeff Stone and went to work as a used car salesperson in 1995.
There is speculation to whether Tonya Harding was manipulated by her ex-husband or not.
Tonya was consequently banned permanently from skating. Her lifelong aspiration came to an end.
LaVonna Golden – a mother who did not have love to give, or who loved her daughter so dearly that punishment was an expression of endearment?
Tonya also suffered a grand amount of pressure from her mother. In the film, ‘I, Tonya’, starring Margot Robbie, there are multiple scenes where LaVonna Golden, Harden’s mother, is seen somewhat abusing her daughter. For instance, LaVonna was seen throwing a knife at Tonya at their house while having an argument. Also, the woman payed a man at the grandstand in a figure skating competition to foul mouth Tonya, her own daughter! LaVonna quite literally payed a man to say horrible things to Harding just before she competed. Did Tonya perform better under rage or pressure? Did LaVonna have good intentions? This just leads us back to the initial question: was she a mother who did not have love to give, or who loved her daughter so dearly that punishment was an expression of endearment? Will we ever know?
We can do better.
How can human nature be so corrupt? It would do humanity so much good if we could all be truthful to ourselves and others. We should follow Tonya Harding’s footsteps in the sense that she practiced multiple hours a day, for 18 years before she became the first woman to land a triple axel – the most challenging and oldest jump in the history of figure skating. Notwithstanding the fact that Harding made a true mistake, we should understand that every action we take has consequences. She let go of everything she ever had for the thing she loved the most: Figure skating. Unfortunately, poor decisions dominated her sense of sportsmanship and Tonya Harding would never tie her vinyl skating boots ever again, or feel the cold breeze brushing through her blonde hair as she spun in the air. Tonya Harding would never again feel what it’s like to be home, because her home, was the ice.