Tonya Harding is one of the most notorious names is figure skating. The former Olympian will be remembered forever for her role in an attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan before they were set to face off during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. But who remembers the series of events that resulted in one of the most scandalous stories in sports history? In honor of "I, Tonya," in which Margot Robbie stars as the titular disgraced athlete, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the timeline of the events chronicled in the hilariously twisted biopic, which hits theaters on Dec. 8, 2017. Keep reading to relive Tonya's biggest moments…
Tonya Harding was born in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 12, 1970, and began figure skating at the age of 3. Though her mother, a waitress, made her figure-skating costumes by hand, the athlete maintains she had a rough childhood and has accused her mother of emotional and physical abuse. Tonya's complicated relationship with her mom (portrayed by Allison Janney in the film) plays a central role in "I, Tonya."
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Tonya Harding (pictured in 1990) dropped out of high school to pursue her career, which skyrocketed during the late '80s. In 1986, she placed sixth in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. In 1987 and 1988, she ranked fifth, and in 1989, she came in third. But she suffered a setback during the 1990 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which resulted in a seventh-place overall ranking. (Despite her athleticism and skill, Tonya frequently performed poorly with judges during competitions — "I, Tonya" explores a few of the reasons why the officials seemingly had it out for her.)
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In 1990, a 19-year-old Tonya Harding married her first husband, Jeff Gillooly (pictured in 1994). Their tumultuous relationship — she obtained restraining orders against him twice over the years and accused him of assaulting her — plays a major role in "I, Tonya," in which he's portrayed by "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" star Sebastian Stan.
In 1991, Tonya Harding landed her first triple axel during a competition, which helped her best rivals Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan (portrayed by Caitlin Carver in the film) to win the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Minneapolis. (Keep an eye out for Tonya's iconic teal figure-skating costume in "I, Tonya.")
During the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships in Munich — where she faced off against Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan yet again — Tonya Harding became the first American woman to land a triple axel during an international competition. In spite of her impressive feat, Tonya placed second behind Kristi. Nancy came in third.
Tonya Harding competed during the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, but ultimately placed fourth in the competition behind rivals Kristi Yamaguchi, who won the gold medal, and Nancy Kerrigan, who took home the bronze medal. (Her white figure-skating costume makes an appearance in "I, Tonya.") Her career took a bit of a hit after the loss as she struggled to regain her confidence on the ice.
Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly officially divorced in 1993, though they remained romantically entangled through 1994. In addition to living together, they also referred to each other as husband and wife.
On Jan. 6, 1994, Shane Stant attacked Nancy Kerrigan following her practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. According to reports, he hit her thigh a few inches above the knee with a collapsible police baton after she left the ice at Cobo Arena in Detroit. Shane had been hired by Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (portrayed by scene-stealer Paul Walter Hauser in "I, Tonya") to break Nancy's leg, removing her from the competition. Though her leg was not broken, it was bruised so badly that Nancy (pictured less than two weeks after the attack) was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (She recovered in time for the 1994 Olympics.)
Tonya Harding went on to win the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 8. But her victory was marred by rumors that she'd been involved in the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan, who withdrew from the competition due to her leg injury.
On Jan. 19, 1994, Tonya Harding broke up with ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (again). Hours later, he was arrested and charged with planning and paying for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. His account of Tonya's role in the plot has always been at odds with the skater's.
The attack on Nancy Kerrigan launched a media frenzy that dominated headlines throughout early 1994. On Jan. 27, Tonya Harding participated in a press conference at the Multnomah County Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon, during which she admitted that she failed to tell authorities what she knew about the attack on her rival. But she denied that she had any role in the plot.
On Feb. 1, 1994, Jeff Gillooly pleaded guilty to racketeering for planning the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. He also accused ex-wife Tonya Harding, who was questioned by the FBI as well as local authorities, of being deeply involved in planning the assault — which she denies to this day. His three conspirators — bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, assailant Shane Stant and getaway-car driver Derrick Smith — were charged with conspiracy. All four served time behind bars for their roles in the attack.
In spite of the scandal, Tonya Harding was allowed to compete during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. (She filed a $20 million lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee for attempting to block her from the competition.) But all did not go according to plan. After arriving on the ice just six seconds shy of disqualification, the figure skater launched into her long program only to cut the routine short due to an issue with her laces. Through tears, she showed her problematic skate to the judges, who allowed her to return to the ice with the right laces five skaters further down the rotation. (Tonya claimed her lace broke after her warm-up exercise and she was worried that the shorter lace she'd used as a substitution could lead to a potentially dangerous accident during her routine.)
Tonya Harding landed the triple axel during her second stab at the long program during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, on Feb. 25. But it wasn't enough for her to medal. She ultimately placed eighth in the competition. Nancy Kerrigan, who'd recovered from the attack the previous month, took home the silver medal.
On March 16, 1994, Tonya Harding pleaded guilty to hindering the investigation of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. (She admitted that she knew details about the situation that she failed to report to the authorities.) She was sentenced to three years of probation, 500 hours of community service and various fines, including $50,000 toward a fund to benefit the Special Olympics. She was also forced to withdraw from the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships in Japan, for which she'd previously qualified. She was also forced to withdraw from the U.S. Figure Skating Association, which revoked her 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship title and banned her for life from either competing in or serving as a coach for USFSA events.
The inability to participate in U.S. Figure Skating Association events effectively ended Tonya Harding's career as a figure skater. Though she could still technically perform in professional events, she was considered unhireable due to her reputation. She also failed to attract promotional opportunities or lucrative sponsorship deals. Tonya enjoyed a brief second calling as a lightweight boxer: She went 3-3-0 in the women's professional boxing league between 2003 and 2004. She's now married to her third husband, with whom she shares a son, and enjoys a quiet life outside of the spotlight.