Today in 1994: Skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked at Detroit ice rink

DETROIT – On Jan. 6, 1994, one of the best ice skaters in the world was attacked and injured at a Detroit ice rink.

Nancy Kerrigan had just finished a practice session at Cobo Hall before the Olympic trials in Detroit. Promptly after leaving the ice rink, a man hit her with a club on the back of her knee, causing the figure skater to cry out in pain and bewilderment.

The full story would unfold in the weeks that followed the incident and would go down as one of the most infamous moments in modern sports history.

One of Kerrigan’s biggest rivals for a place on the U.S. Figure Skating Team was Tonya Harding. In mid-December 1993, Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, approached Shawn Eckardt about somehow eliminating Kerrigan from the competition. Eckardt set up a meeting with Derrick Smith and Shane Stant, who agreed to injure Kerrigan for a fee.

The original attack was planned for Dec. 28, 1993 in Massachusets. But Stant couldn't carry out the attack. So he followed her to her next event in Detroit.

After hitting Kerrigan, Stant fled the ice rink in Smith’s getaway car. With Kerrigan unable to skate, Harding won the championship and a spot on the 1994 U.S. team.

Derrick Smith confessed to FBI agents. Three days later, Stant surrendered and also confessed. Harding was questioned on January 18, but denied her involvement. She claimed that she would cut off any connection with Gillooly if he was responsible.

The next day, Gillooly was charged with conspiracy to assault Kerrigan. Shortly after, he agreed to a deal in which he implicated Harding.

Gillooly was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the attack and Harding received three years of probation and was fined $100,000 for conspiring to hinder prosecution.

The story was recently documented in the hit film, "I, Tonya," which offers Harding's point-of-view of her career and the defining incident.

"I, Tonya" stars Margot Robbie as Harding and delves into the former skater's life beyond the attack.

Kerrigan went on to win a silver medal at the Olympics, weeks after the attack. Harding was eventually banned from the sport.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.