Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tonya Harding's "Much Ado About Nothing," and "Jurassic Park"

I'm a day late in posting, but better late than never.

Yesterday, Nov. 12, was Tonya Harding's 45th birthday. This is hard to believe, considering that I remember seeing her skate on TV as a 23-year-old at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. Crazy to think about how long ago that was, when in some ways, it feels like it was just yesterday. I remember the event, and my falling in love with figure skating, quite clearly.

I remember Tonya's Olympic skates well, but more for the negatives than the positives, to be honest. That was the first and only time that I ever saw Tonya compete. I decided to look back at her 1994 U.S. National's programs, to see how she did there. I know that she won, but I had never watched her performances, in particular, to see how they compared to what she did at the Olympics a short time later.

Of course, at those Olympic trials in Detroit, Nancy Kerrigan was sidelined by the attack, which Tonya was later accused of allegedly being involved in. But at the time, no fingers were poined at Tonya, and she cruised to her second U.S. title, defeating 13-year-old Michelle Kwan. After her knowledge of the attack on Kerrigan was proven, Tonya was stripped of this title, and banned from U.S. Figure Skating-sanctioned events for life.

In Detroit, Tonya skated an impressive short program to music that would later prove to be ironic: "Much Ado About Nothing." Her triple Lutz, double-toe was as athletic as they come, and the overall presentation, speed on her spins, and delivery of this skate elicited far more excitement than it did when performed in Lillehammer the following month. If she had skated this same performance at the Olympics, she would have been much higher in the rankings. As things played out, Tonya was 10th after the short in Lillehammer, while Nancy Kerrigan was first.

In the freeeskate at Nationals, Tonya landed most of her jumps cleanly, but there were still some mistakes, and it really felt like there wasn't a lot of content. I like the Jurassic Park music, especially the slow section and the track at the end. In the past, Tonya's programs were a hodge-podge of mis-matched musical selections. I found the Jurassic Park program, given all the music was from the same score, to be a much more cohesive program. Even so, given that Tonya said she wanted to win the Olympics, and this would be her vehicle to do so, I'm surprised the program wasn't more impressive. But in the end, Tonya did enough here to win, and earn a ticket to the Olympics. Unfortunately, in Lillehammer, she only finished 8th overall.

The world may never know the truth of the extent of Tonya Harding's involvement in the Kerrigan attack, but we do know that in her prime, Tonya was a tremendous athlete, who pushed U.S. figure skating to new heights athletically in the early 1990s. No matter what people thought of her then, or think of her now, we can never deny her talent.

Though Tonya has gone down some interesting life paths in her time since being banned from figure skating, we can still tip our hats to her on this belated birthday, and remember her as a trendsetter for the sport we love.

Tonya's 1994 short program to "Much Ado About Nothing":

Tonya's 1994 freeskate to "Jurrasic Park" :

1 comment:

  1. While I believe Nancy should have won the gold medal,Tonya was a superior skater compared to Nancy. Yes, I know she was an accessory after the fact. She tells why in various interviews and I might have done the same if I were in her shoes.

    Some people just get a raw deal in life. She is one of them.