Tonya Harding And Her Battle With Abuse
They say to truly know a person, we must look both the present and the past. These two will give us a more holistic approach to how we view a person but the opposite can be said for a woman named Tonya, who has been judged based on the way she carried herself. This cost her entire future and the only passion she had growing up. Who is Tonya and why does she remain a controversial figure?
Tonya Harding is one of America’s greatest figure skaters. She was born in Portland, Oregon and was the 5th child of her mother from her 4th husband. She started skating when she was still 3 years old. Her mother paid for her skating coaches, hand-sewn her costumes, and made her drop-out of school so Tonya can focus on skating. Later on, Tonya became the first woman to ever attempt and successfully execute two triple axels in a single competition. Her stunt made her the 1991 U.S. Champion and a two-time Olympian. Knowing the story up to here can convince us that Tonya had lived a wonderful, successful life, but it’s far from that.
Tonya’s life is the subject of the documentary film, I, Tonya. It shows her raw upbringing in life and how she made it to Olympics. She was abused by her mother when she was still a child, a narrative that has been denied by her mother many times. Because her mother was paying for her skating classes, she was made to follow all the things that her mother saw fit. She was beaten up and was verbally abused by her mother since she was still 3 years old. Her father leaving the house did not help either, in fact, it made everything worse.
When she was in sophomore year in high school, she dropped out of school so she could pursue skating, her one true passion and calling in life. At the age of 19, she married her first husband Jeff Gillooly, whom will become a very important person in her downfall. According to Tonya, she left the house to get away from her mother’s cruel hands. But Jeff, her now husband, was also as abusive as her mother. She was beaten down, smashed her head through a mirror, and was shot by her husband. All of these abuses got bottled up, causing her aggressive facade.
The Nancy Kerrigan Incident
Tonya’s involvement in the attack of a fellow ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, became her one-way ticket to an unfortunate life. Nancy was hit by a collapsing baton in her knee which made her unable to compete. The man who hit her was Stant, a hired man by Tonya’s bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, and her husband Jeff. It was released that Tonya was behind her attack since Nancy is a very close opponent during the selection of the Olympic team to be sent to Norway. Both Shawn and Jeff were sent to prison and served 2 years there. Tonya on the other pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. She was given 3 years probation, a 500-hour community service, fines, and a lifetime ban from the ice. That means, she could no longer compete or even coach figure skaters.
Tonya, in her documentary, tried to clear her name, that she was not directly involved in Nancy’s attack in the first place. All she knew was a part of was try to send Kerrigan death threats after receiving her own from an anonymous sender. But the part of actually harming someone never came to Tonya’s mind because she knew in herself that she is as talented as everyone else.
Tonya tried many things after ending her career. From becoming a boxer to a hardware saleswoman- she has tried them all to pay the bills. Now, she is happily married to her third husband, which was blessed by an only son.
Abuse can be very traumatic for a person. It can mess with our minds and our actions, especially when we can’t get the mental attention that we need. Overcoming an abuse is a very difficult thing to do, and it should be treated with great care. The problem with society is we tend to blame the abused rather than the abuser. This is why the survivors decide to remain unheard of because they fear of being judged.
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