Nancy Kerrigan (born October 13, 1969 in Stoneham, Massachusetts) is a two-time Olympic figure skating medalist.
She first came to prominence when the United States team scored a medal sweep in the ladies' event in the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships; Kerrigan received the bronze medal behind Kristi Yamaguchi and Tonya Harding. Her career seemed headed steadily upward as she received a bronze medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics, and the silver medal at the 1992 World Championships. The following season she became United States Champion and was leading the World Championship in Prague after the short program when a disastrous long program resulted in her tumbling to fifth in the standings and a surprising win by Oksana Baiul.
Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan on the cover of TIME magazine, January 24, 1994She captured national attention beyond the skating world on January 6, 1994, when she was clubbed in the knee by Shane Stant, who was hired to assault her by Tonya Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and friend Shawn Eckhardt. Despite the unprovoked nature of the attack, as a public figure she was mocked in the press for crying "Why me? Why now?" in what was perceived as a whine. Kerrigan was misquoted; her words in the immediate aftermath of the attack were simply "Why? Why?".
Just a month after the attack, Kerrigan went on to win the silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer (second to Oksana Baiul), with what was undoubtedly the best performance of her career. The decision between Kerrigan and Baiul was close and somewhat controversial, and remains so to this day. After hearing Kerrigan had complained the judges had not noticed how flawless her performance was and that they had missed Baiul's mistakes, CBS television, which had the U.S. broadcast rights to the event, continued to sensationalize the story by broadcasting video of a frustrated Kerrigan saying "I don't know why they're bothering reapplying her makeup. She's only going to start crying again." after she was mistakenly told the medal presentation was being delayed to allow Baiul to fix her makeup (The delay was because no one knew the Ukrainian national anthem).
Without a fairy-tale ending, the media and public opinion turned on Kerrigan. She was criticized for leaving the Olympic venue before the closing ceremonies to take part in a pre-arranged publicity parade at Walt Disney World, her $2 million sponsor, and then for being caught on microphone during the parade saying "This is dumb. I hate it. This is the most corniest thing I have ever done." She said her remarks were taken out of context: she was not commenting on being in the parade, but on the fact she didn't want to wear her silver medal in the parade.
The tabloids also started to publish stories that she was seeing her agent/future husband, Jerry Solomon, while he was still married to his first wife. Solomon had been long separated from his first wife and they were headed to a divorce.
Kerrigan's guest appearance on Saturday Night Live was not well received either. She was nervous throughout the live performance and her acting seemed wooden. Even in the promos for the show she looked uncomfortable.
In a Dateline NBC interview, she responded to all of the attacks made on her, and broke down because of the pressure that took its toll on her everyday life. It was clear she was having a hard time living up to the image of being America's newest skating sweetheart, a title which was given to her by fate. For her part, Kerrigan undoubtedly made mistakes in handling her public image. But after a few months, the press moved on and she was able to live a normal life again.
Kerrigan retired from active competition after the Olympics, and is now married with two sons, Matthew and Brian. She has appeared in a variety of ice skating shows since turning professional. She also created The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation to raise awareness and support for the vision impaired.
Kerrigan also appeared in the 2006 FOX television program Skating with Celebrities.