Cold As Ice: The Whirlwind Life Of Nancy Kerrigan


In the 1990s, Nancy Kerrigan was the United States’ Ice Princess. She was winning national and international competitions. However, when she was the victim of a vicious attack in 1994, much began to change. Kerrigan was highly scrutinized, and many were not sympathetic. Keep reading to discover the events that led up to the 1994 scandal as well as the aftermath of the event which sent Kerrigan’s life on a whirlwind of events.

Her Dad Worked At The Rink To Pay For Her Lessons

There is one huge misconception about Nancy Kerrigan. Due to her pristine upkeep on the ice, many believe that Kerrigan came from a wealthy family. However, she came from a working-class family. Her father not only worked a full-time job, but he also worked extra hours at the ice skating rink to pay for Nancy’s lessons as a child. Her father had to take on the burden of the work because her mother could not.

Her Mother Can Never See Her Skate

When Nancy was a child, she was in the car with her mother, Brenda, and two brothers. During this ride, Brenda’s vision started to blur. Brenda soon learned that she had contracted a rare disease that left her almost completely blind. Brenda could never watch her daughter out on the ice but had to stand very close to a TV monitor to see Nancy’s routine. In an interview with The New York Times, Brenda said, “As nice as it is being able to look at television up close, being underneath the stands my husband, Dan, and I feel we’re missing something. We don’t see people, and that’s a loss. It’s really lousy for him. It’s much more fun being part of a crowd.”

Began Skating Through Ice Hockey

Nancy Kerrigan was the youngest of three children and the only girl. She has admitted that as a child, due to being around her two brothers so much, she was a “tomboy.” She would often follow her brothers to the local ice rink to play ice hockey. However, her love of skating eventually evolved, and she was more drawn to figure skating rather than hockey.

Won Her First Competition At Age 9

Kerrigan began figure skating when she was 6-years-old. It was apparent very quickly that Nancy was special. It was at this point that Nancy and her parents began truly investing in the sport. She won her first big competition, the Boston Open when she was 9-years-old. She continued to see success after.

Rise To The Top

Kerrigan continued to skate throughout the rest of her life. She would wake up at 4 a.m. every morning to practice before school. But, it wasn’t until her collegiate years that she became a star. One year into her Bachelor’s degree, she won the National Collegiate Championships. Only a few months later, she took home a bronze medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival. Unfortunately, her time at the top didn’t last long.

Humiliated At The World Games

After the U.S Olympic Festival, Kerrigan won the bronze medal at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France. In 1993, she seemed to be at the top of her fame, until the 1993 World Games in Prague. She placed tenth in the competition. Her rank plummeted, and she left the arena crying, saying to reporters, “I just want to die.”

Saw A Sports Psychologist

After her humiliating loss, Kerrigan returned to train with even more vigor. She saw a sports psychologist and began limiting her public appearances. She thought both were necessary to concentrate on her training. After some time out of the limelight, and a lot of practice time on the ice, she felt prepared enough to return to the competition circuit.

Return To The Top

By the end of 1993, Kerrigan had returned to the top and won two international competitions. In 1994, Kerrigan headed to Detriot for the U.S. Figure Skating. This competition would help decide the U.S. team for the upcoming Olympics. Unfortunately, it was at this competition that Kerrigan became the victim of a heinous crime.

The Whack Heard Around The World

In January 1994, Kerrigan was practicing at the Cobo Arena when a man clubbed Kerrigan just above the knee with a baton. The man breaks through a glass door and flees the scene. Kerrigan fell to the ground and her cries of “Why Me? Why Now?” were filmed and broadcast all over the world. Kerrigan’s kneecap and quadriceps tendon were injured, and she could not participate in the U.S. Championships.

Tonya Harding Wins The Championship

Despite the incident, the U.S. Championship went on as planned. Tonya Harding won first place, and Michelle Kwan took second. Therefore, Kwan and Harding were supposed to be the two skaters named to the Olympic team. However, due to extenuating circumstances, Kerrigan took Kwan’s place. Kwan would attend the games as an alternate.

A Shocking Recovery

Nearly a month after the incident, Kerrigan and Harding headed to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Kerrigan shocked the world and won second place. While her fellow teammate, Tonya Harding finished in 8th place. However, it was not her time on the ice, but her way to the podium that caused the most controversy in this competition.

The Public Begins To Turn Against Her

After discovering she had won second place instead of first, Kerrigan clearly displayed dismay and anger. Oksana Baiul had been chosen by the judges for the gold medal. The medaling ceremony was delayed as Olympic official couldn’t find a recording of the Ukrainian national anthem. However, someone told Kerrigan the delay was due to Oksana putting on makeup. On camera, Kerrigan said “Oh, come on. So she’s going to get out here and cry again. What’s the difference?” Her comment was broadcast on CBS. This was the first turning point in the public’s sympathy for Kerrigan.

King Of Norway Asked Her Not To Attend Closing Ceremony

After Kerrigan’s remarks came out, people were no longer seeing her as a victim. They believed Kerrigan might have been a part of the scandal, seeking attention and publicity. She claims that she began receiving death threats. To keep the event safe, the King of Norway asked Kerrigan to not attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics. She obliged.

From Victim To Villain

Kerrigan’s comments about Oksana were just the beginning of the public slowly turning against her. Soon after her win, Kerrigan appeared in a parade at Disney World. She was caught on camera saying “This is dumb. I hate it. This is the corniest thing I have ever done.” Kerrigan claims the comment was taken out of context. Despite that, the press had a field day with it.

Removed From Her Throne

It was at this time that media decided to rip down Kerrigan from her throne. One reporter for the Chicago Tribune wrote that Kerrigan made a “deal with the devil,” as she capitalized on the scandal. “The fame (notoriety?) Kerrigan achieved owes as much to having been attacked than to the erratic quality of her skating,” Philip Hersh wrote.  “She claims to be unprepared and uncomfortable with celebrity, yet does nothing to avoid it. It’s like a deal with the devil, which one can take or leave but not complain about once it is made.”