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'I, Tonya' — True Story behind the Drama about Figure-Skating Olympian Tonya Harding

Edduin Carvajal
Jan 09, 2021
06:55 A.M.
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“I, Tonya,” the 2017 biopic about figure skater Tonya Harding and her involvement in the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan, made headlines for how the events were told.


On January 6, 1994, Nancy Kerrigan, a two-time Olympic medalist, was attacked by Shane Stant, forcing her out of Detroit's 1994 US Olympic trials. She eventually recovered on time for that year’s Winter Olympics, but she lost the gold medal.

After investigating the attack, authorities discovered that it was planned by Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and his co-conspirator Shawn Eckardt, who hired Stant and his uncle Derrick Smith for it.

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding during a practice session at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics on February 17, 1994 | Photo: Getty Images



This incident and some of the situations that led to the attack are shown in “I, Tonya.” However, some people criticized director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers for depicting Harding as a victim.

It is reported that Rogers was inspired to create something with Kerrigan and Harding’s story after seeing a skating documentary.


He only got invested, though, after dialing the contact phone number for Harding’s agent listed on her website, and it went to a hotel room. Apart from that, Rogers interviewed Harding and Gillooly, but their stories were “wildly contradictory.”

Rogers said that they were both telling themselves whatever they needed to live with what they did. For that reason, the screenwriter considered that he’d show “everybody’s point of view” and let the audience decide.

The film took some artistic licenses to make [things] look more dramatic.



Such a decision led to some discrepancies between the events depicted in the film and what actually happened, including how Harding confronted the judges on the ice.

In the film, Margot Robbie (who portrayed Harding) asked the judges to treat her fairly, but when one of them told her she probably was not as good as she thought, Harding responded with an insult.


The real-life Harding said, though, that she would never have yelled at the judges on the ice or use that many swear words.

Another element of the movie that was not entirely accurate was the death threat Harding received. In the film, Harding got scared after someone threatened to kill her if she went skating that day.


Eckardt then told Gillooly that he was the one who called Harding, something that was never confirmed in real life. Most of the events did happen, but the film took some artistic licenses to make them look more dramatic.

With or without discrepancies, “I Tonya” gave Allison Janney (who portrayed Harding’s mother, LaVona Golden) an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Robbie was also nominated for the same awards, but she didn’t take home any of them.


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