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Tonya Harding 'Whacks' Nancy Kerrigan

The body language says it all: Nancy Kerrigan (left) stays clear of her rival Tonya Harding during a practice session at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Pascal Rondeau/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

Usually when a sport explodes in popularity, it's because of an exceptional star player, but in 1994 a scandal drove ice skating to the forefront in the U.S.

Nancy Kerrigan was just wrapping up a practice session in January 1994 when a man with a metal baton bashed her knees. It seemed as if Kerrigan's Olympic dreams had been crushed. Tonya Harding won the 1994 U.S. women's figure skating championship and joined the U.S. Olympic team. But it wasn't long before an accomplice in Kerrigan's attack -- Shawn Eckardt -- came forward to say that Harding's then-husband Jeff Gillooly was responsible for Kerrigan's knee injuries [source: CBS News]. Harding denied knowledge of the attack.

Despite being unable to compete in the U.S. trials, Kerrigan was voted onto the team along with Harding (who threatened a lawsuit if she was kept off) for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. More than 120 million TV viewers tuned in to watch the drama unfold as the two competed for a gold medal [source: Oprah]. Harding only placed eighth while Kerrigan took the silver in front of thousands of fans [source: CBS News].

Harding later admitted that Gillooly told her about the attack after it happened. She pleaded guilty to hindering the investigation and a Portland judge slapped her with probation and a $160,000 fine [sources: CBS News, Steptoe]. The U.S. Figure Skating Association was more severe. It independently investigated the attack, stripped Harding of her 1994 women's championship title and banned her for life from competitive figure skating and coaching after they concluded that she knew about the attack before it happened [source: Brennan].

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