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Columnist Can't Wait For Harding Biopic
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
I didn't go to a lot of movies this year. I saw Wonder Woman and The House, and the latter I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. Amy Poehler and Will Farrell. Does it get any better than that? In case you didn't see it, Amy and Will start an illegal casino in their home after the town takes away their daughter's scholarship. Hilarity ensues. I'm not into World War II epics, so WW was a bit of a letdown.
Now it's fall, however, and that means more serious movies. Or as I refer to it, “movies with substance, however gruesome or tacky.” I've never been into the summer blockbusters. So I was thrilled to find out that My Friend Dahmer is out, but I may have to travel to Indianapolis to see it. Which means I'll probably be renting it on video, since I'm working seven days a week and funds are short.
What I'm REALLY looking forward to is I, Tonya, the darkly funny treatment of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga that started off 1994 with a whack on the knee. I've always wanted to be a figure skater/gymnast, and I remember the Harding/Kerrigan saga. Hell, it gave skating the boost it needed. I'm sorry that Harding wasn't able to profit from it, because the other skaters sure did.
The story really is wild, and it IS true. Harding, the best skater in the world at one time, had a triple axel, a jump that's difficult for women to land (our hips are too wide.) Midori Ito was the only other female who managed to land it. Harding wasn't artistic, but she could jump and was powerful. It's amazing to realize that she did all this while battling asthma and smoking. Imagine if she didn't have asthma and weren't addicted to the cancer sticks.
She came from a broken home without much money, and her mom was a villain. Skating was the only thing that Harding had, although I would have suggested she learn a trade. Just because you fall from grace (or hit someone on the knee) doesn't mean you can't start over. Sure, it's a bit of a come down after having been a U.S. National Champion, and placing second at the Worlds, but she fixed her car and probably would have made a top-notch mechanic.
But as someone said about her in a documentary, she is a born athlete. And with all that potential, Harding pinned all of her skating hopes on a gold medal at the 1994 Olympics. It was a twice-in-a-lifetime shot that was handed to her when the Winter and Summer Olympics started an alternating schedule. So instead of four years, she only had to wait two.
She probably panicked a bit after realizing that 1991 was her year. She hit the triple axel consistently. There were several “first female skater ever to” moments. Call her what you will—white trash, a Pacific Northwest Hillbilly, tasteless. Despite garish costumes, she was once the best skater on the planet. Harding probably felt that 1994 was it—silver wasn't going to be good enough. She wanted gold. She wanted the endorsements. To a girl whose abusive mother sewed her skating outfits, she no doubt thought the gold medal was payment enough for what she'd been through. If only her main rival Kerrigan, who was blue collar East Coast to Harding's West Coast take-no-shit attitude and was nicknamed the Irish Katarina, were out of the picture.
If you're old enough you know the rest. For the young'uns, the sloppily put together plot fell apart, the FBI came in, and Harding's band of Kerrigan Krushers was busted. Kerrigan was placed on the U.S. team. At the championships, with only one other spot available, ironically due to Kerrigan's poor showing at the 1993 Worlds, Harding won.
But the show wasn't over. They avoided each other in practice while photographers captured every move. When showtime came, Harding and her team were trying to fix her skate. She pleaded equipment failure and got to try again. She didn't come close to getting on the podium.
Kerrigan skated a great program, but plot twist! A little Ukrainian orphan won the gold. All that drama, and a 16-year-old skating to American show tunes walks off with the prize.
I miss the 1990s for various reasons. So I can't wait until I, Tonya hits screens in another couple weeks. I think of it as a Rags to Bitches story. Ice skating, scandal and the 1990s. I almost feel like a girl of 26 again.