Tonya Harding finally comes clean 24 years after attack on Nancy Kerrigan

“Once, there was this girl who swore that one day she would be a figure skating champion. But when she finally made it, she saw some other girl who was better. And so she hired some guy to club her in the kneecap.”

So wrote “Weird Al” Yankovic in 1994 for his song “Headline News,” telling a version of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan story that Harding herself has denied for the past 24 years — specifically the part about her having any involvement in her ex-husband Jeff Gilooly and club-wielding Shane Stant creating one of the downright weirdest moments in the history of sports:

Harding was interviewed for “Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story,” which aired on ABC Thursday night, as figure skating gets ready for its once-every-four-years return to the spotlight for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

She continues to claim that she did not have direct involvement in the manner implied in song by Yankovic, but she did, for the first time, admit that she overheard Gilooly and Shawn Eckardt discussing the means by which Kerrigan, who qualified for the 1994 Lillehammer Games ahead of Harding at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, could be taken out of the picture so Harding, the first alternate, would be allowed to compete.

“I did … overhear them talking about stuff, where, ‘Well, maybe we should take somebody out so we can make sure she gets on the team.’ I remember telling them, I go, ‘What the hell are you talking about? I can skate.’ …

“This was like a month or two months before. But they were talking about skating and saying, ‘Well, maybe somebody should be taken out so then, you know, she can make it.’ … I didn’t know what was going on.”

Said Harding: “It popped in my head two or three days after we got back [that Gillooly and Eckardt were involved].”

It turned out to be a moot point. Harding did qualify for the Olympics on her own merits when U.S. Figure Skating selected her along with Kerrigan (who recovered from the attack in time to earn a silver medal in Norway) to go. Harding finished eighth after an infamous do-over of her free skate following a meltdown over supposed trouble with the laces on her skates:

Harding’s fictionalized biopic “I, Tonya” hit theaters last month and received critical acclaim upon its release.

Margot Robbie plays Harding in the film, while Allison Janney, who won a Golden Globe for the performance, plays Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden.

Golden, incidentally, hates the film, offering one of those “I care that you think I don’t care” sorts of venomous responses via USA Today: “I don’t give a [expletive] about the movie. I don’t care how it portrays me. I could care less about that movie than the dirt outside.”

Golden also claims she was not the abusive parent she is portrayed as in the movie, admitting to once having spanked her daughter with a hairbrush at a competition, but flatly denying that she ever threw a steak knife at her offspring.

Harding, for her part, said simply, “Take a lie detector, b—-.”

Kerrigan, meanwhile, is less than pleased with the idea that she’s more famous as “that girl who got smacked in the knee” than as an Olympic silver medalist.

At the unmitigated gall the interviewer had in asking whether her popularity stemmed from the infamous attack, Kerrigan replied, “I have two Olympics medals [Kerrigan won bronze in 1992]. They didn’t just give them to me. I worked hard for it. Who in their right mind would ask to be attacked? I would never wish that on anyone. If I could change that, would I? Of course I would.”

One wonders if perhaps Kerrigan might have won gold if her knee had been fully healthy and if the specter of the attack in Detroit hadn’t hung over those Games like the fog over London.

Harding, meanwhile, isn’t letting go of her 15 minutes of fame that, for perspective, happened four years before Bradie Tennell, the U.S. champion competing in Korea this year, was born on Jan. 31, 1998.

When asked if the incident contributed to interest in women’s figure skating, Harding said, “Sure. Why not? I mean, I was there. I skated.”

Well, at least she finally copped to something that a parody songwriter brought up all those years ago. Mmm mmm mmm mmm …

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