25 years later: Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked in Detroit

DETROIT – The 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships are happening all this week at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

The focus is on talent, sportsmanship and the start of the new Olympic cycle. That was the goal the last time Detroit hosted, which was 25 years ago.

  • Watch the video above for Steve Garagiola's full story.

Unfortunately, Detroit became the center of the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding scandal.

On Jan. 6, 1994, a man wielding a retractable police baton attacked American's figure skating queen, Nancy Kerrigan, as she finished her practice session at Cobo Hall.

The city's police chief, Ike McKinnon, had been on his new job for less than a week. Still, 25 years later, he remembers it well.

A weeping Nancy Kerrigan was carried off the ice by her father, who later that afternoon asked the question the entire world wanted to know.

"Why would someone do this?" Kerrigan's father asked.

Former skating champion Scott Hamilton remembers a phone call he received after the attack.

Tonya Harding was Kerrigan's top rival. There was also Jeff Gillooly, Harding's ex-husband and manager. There was Shawn Eckhardt, the bodyguard who boasted he had once been an international spy and Shane Stant, the hit man.

Harding believed she might not make the Olympic team because of bias that favored Kerrigan.

In mid-December, Harding's ex-husband Gillooly approached Eckardt about finding a way to eliminate Kerrigan from the competition. Eckardt set up a meeting with Derrick Smith and Stant who agreed to injure Kerrigan for a price.

Gillooly's friend Eckhardt, contacted an acquaintance named Rusty Reitz.

On Jan. 4, Stant checked into a Super 8 motel in Detroit. Two days later, he slipped into Cobo Hall and attacked Kerrigan after her practice.

On Jan. 7, an anonymous tip call to Deputy police Chief Benny Napolean named Gillooly and Eckhardt, but not Harding.

On Jan. 27, Gillooly confessed to the FBI and said Harding was part of the plan from the beginning.

On Feb. 1, under mounting pressure, Harding admitted that she knew about the plot.

Stant spent 18 months in prison. Eckhardt was convicted of racketeering and spent 15 months in prison. Gillooly spent two years in prison for his part in the plot.

Harding kept her place on the Olympic team, but after a shoelace malfunction, she skated poorly and did not medal in March of 1994. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy and got three years probation.

Kerrigan won a silver medal at the Olympics and no longer wishes to talk about what happened that year.

About the Authors:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.