Nancy Kerrigan was one of the finest figure skaters the United States has ever seen. She faced a number of controversies both on and off the skating rink. Read on to know more about her life and her achievements…
Nancy Kerrigan is considered to be a legend in the world of figure skating. She has won two medals each, in Winter Olympics and World Championship, and was the US figure skating woman champion in 1993. She is well-known for her graceful and poignant performances on ice. Her versatility made her different from the rest.
During her career as a figure skater, she faced many hardships to prove her mettle. She was physically attacked by an unknown assailant just before the 1994 Winter Olympics, to jeopardize her participation in the Games. However, she fought against all odds and went on to win a silver medal for her country. She is a role model for many, for her grit and determination. Off the rink, her beauty, grace and poise throbbed the hearts of millions.
Nancy was born to Brenda and Daniel Kerrigan on October 13, 1969 in Massachusetts. She has two elder brothers, Michael and Mark. As a kid, she loved all kinds of sports and often accompanied her brothers to the field, to play hockey with them. At the age of 6, she began her stint as a skater. Her first accolade as a skater came when she was just 9. Her parents were very encouraging. Her father, in particular, played a major role in building her career in skating.
Nancy participated in the 1991 World Figure Skating Championship for the first time, at the age of 21. It was also her first major international event. She ended the competition, winning a bronze medal in Women’s Singles event, behind two of her fellow Americans winning the gold and the silver medals. It became a rare event in the 73 years’ history of Women’s World Figure Skating Championship, where all the three medals went to the same country, which was United States. Though she came third in the event, she was highly appreciated for her skillful movements, artistry and expression.
In the 1992 Winter Olympics that was held in Albertville in France, Nancy won the second bronze medal of her career. This time, her performance on ice was more impressive and the variety of skills that she exhibited overwhelmed the judges as well as the audience. The passion in her moves and her beauty and elegance made her the cynosure of all eyes. She became a celebrity in international sports and a lot of brand endorsements came her way.
In January 1993, Nancy won the national title. This win made her the favorite contender for the 1993 World Figure Skating Championship held at Prague. However, her dream to win a gold in the championship was shattered with her disastrous fall on the ice while performing in the rink. She ended up at the fifth position. As a result, she was heart-broken and so were her fans. She was criticized for concentrating more on brand endorsements and public appearances than on her practice sessions.
After the dismal performance at Prague, many people started to write her off from the world of figure skating. Nancy felt insecure for the first time in her career. Moreover, her confidence hit rock bottom and she could feel her career going unsteady. In such a scenario, anyone would have thought of quitting. However, Nancy chose to show her fighting spirit. Instead of giving up, she decided to renew her determination. Firstly, she shed a few pounds to get back her shape, which helped her regain her lost confidence. Then she began with a rigorous training program. She made the duration of each practice session longer, in order to get back her rhythm.
As Nancy’s popularity started reaching newer heights, her rivals became jealous of her as a result of which, she was a victim of a gruesome attack on 6th January 1994. The assailant, named Shane Stuart, hit her in the knee with a sledgehammer at Coba Arena, where she used to practice. Later, it was revealed that the attacker was hired by the ex-husband of her arch-rival Tonya Harding. Due to the injury, Nancy had no choice but to pull out of the Olympic trials. Her chance to participate in the Olympics became doubtful. However, the United States Olympic Committee, USOC, allowed her a berth in the Olympics, as a mark of appreciation of her bravery.
After long days of uncertainty, Nancy was happy that she was finally included in the US team for the 1994 Winter Olympic Games held in Norway. But she realized how tough it was for her to secure a position in the team. So, when she took to the ice to present her program, she strove to give the best performance of her life. Her power, technical skills and elegance made her the toast of the night. Unfortunately, she lost her gold medal to Ukrainian Oksana Baiul by just 0.1 points. Everyone accused the judges of being unfair to Nancy. Even Nancy expressed her displeasure towards the judges for being too critical while judging her performance and overlooking the faults of Oksana Baiul.
Nancy ran into controversy several times during her sporting career. The attack made on her by close aides of fellow American contender Tonya Harding was the biggest among them. Her comments on the judges during 1994 Winter Olympics were not taken rightly by the media. She was highly criticized for skipping the closing ceremony of the same event, though the reason for her absence was security concern. Many were vehemently critical about her high profile brand endorsements and grabbing media attention all the time.
After the 1994 Winter Olympics, Nancy announced her retirement from the competitive circle. She got married to her agent Jerry Solomon in September 1995. The couple is now blessed with three children – Mathew, Brian and Nicole Elizabeth, and presently live in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. Nancy is attached to her mother Brenda Kerrigan, who lost her eyesight due to a viral attack when Nancy was barely 2 years old. As a child, Nancy had to learn to adjust with her mother’s blindness. In honor of her mother, she has founded ‘The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation’ to spread awareness and support for the visually impaired. Nancy is a likable sports personality and has made several appearances in ice skating shows on TV. She has played a small role in the movie, Band of Glory, which is based on figure skating
Nancy was not just a decorative skater but was equally good in intricate and challenging moves like spins and jumps on ice. Nancy was a tough competitor, who showed the world that her passion towards her sport and her love for her country made her determination even stronger. She will continue to be a source of inspiration for figure skaters all over the world and a sweetheart of the Americans.