With all the recent talk of Tonya Harding (well, a new movie plus that article I linked to on Friday plus a certain Sufjan Stevens song), it's like I've fallen in a rabbit hole and ended up in 1994. And it brings back so many memories! Tonya Harding was a huge part of my adolescent years. I was a fan of figure skating (especially in the Olympics) anyway, and Tonya was from my hometown area, which made her super special. My memory is that Portland loved her. She was rough and not a cookie cutter figure skating princess but she was OURS.
When the Harding/Kerrigan scandal hit, 12-year-old me was HERE for it. I was in sixth grade and some of the kids decided to be pro-Kerrigan, I assume just to be contrary...? We were kids and kids do that stuff sometimes. With every crazy twist and turn that case took, playground conversation heated up.
It came to a head at the Olympics when Tonya had to abort her long program and beg the judges to let her fix her boot. If you don't remember this moment for some reason (like, possibly you weren't ALIVE?!?!), I can't even express how dramatic it was. Can you imagine? A scandal like this, already the most scandal-y scandal to ever scandalize the Olympics, and then THIS happens? And the next day, I remember the photo at the top of this post being all over the newspapers (I may have, uh, had a newspaper clipping scrapbook about Tonya Harding). At school, Team Kerrigan had a lot of fun mocking Tonya's makeup-caked sadface and mimicking her whining. It was intense.
Before the Olympics, though, Tonya was still training at the skating rink at the Lloyd Center mall. Her practice sessions at the time were consistently mobbed by national (and probably international) press. My mom took me to one of Tonya's practice sessions once and the crowds were huge. It almost seemed like most of them were reporters - cameras and people talking on microphones everywhere. Connie Chung walked right in front of 12-year-old me. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life at that point (and to be honest, maybe even still is?).
In revisiting my memories of the Tonya Harding scandal, what strikes me is that we know so much more now, even as we know so little. I think the passage of time has been kind to Tonya, and things that the press excoriated her for 23 years ago we now forgive. Her makeup, her bangs, her family, her "trashiness" - she was a product of her often unfortunate upbringing, and it seems cruel now to think of how the collective we bullied her for being different.
At the same time, we still have no idea who knew what, when. The article I linked to on Friday says that Tonya's own account of what happened is just as believable as Gillooly's, and I am inclined to agree. What a crazy moment in history, and in my childhood!