Nancy Kerrigan’s life has been defined by about three or four seconds in time.
Forget her grace on ice or her status as one of the most successful American athletes of her time, Nancy Kerrigan’s name, face and in particular, her right leg, will forever be entrenched in the depths of sporting history, not for leg’s dexterity but for instead the moment a police baton connected with it at the hands of a rogue, strange assailant.
Such is the narrative of Oscar-nominated blockbuster I, Tonya. Nancy Kerrigan, a former professional ice skater, was struck down just prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics by a man – under the direction of her fellow competitor Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly – who took the baton to the lower part of her right thigh.
She recovered in time to win a silver medal at the Olympics, though the story became much bigger and more salacious than her talents on ice. It became the story of Tonya – Nancy taking a backseat to her blonde perpetrator – classism and family. It became the story of sport and its all-consuming hold on its biggest talents; the story of a young woman who would do – who did – whatever it takes to win.
Tonya Harding was the most hated woman in America for years. For more than two decades. And then, in 2018, Australian actress Margot Robbie took the story and brought it to life on screen, daring to paint a rounded, sympathetic portrayal of the woman who became the punch line of national jokes for decades. After 24 years, there was a little more nuance to the story. In fact, after 24 years, there was nuance to Tonya; it was like a Hollywood-driven redemption tour, a story she had been waiting so long to tell.
But much like the idea that there is so much more to Tonya Harding than 1994 would have you believe, there is also so much more to Nancy Kerrigan than her quiet presence in the film would lead you to assume.
Nancy Kerrigan, now 48, is a wife and mother-of-three. A year after the Harding attack, Kerrigan married her agent Jerry Solomon. Together, they had Matthew, now 21, Brian, 12 and Nicole, nine.
However, in 2017, Kerrigan, while appearing on Dancing With The Stars, revealed when she was trying to fall pregnant for a second time, she had "at least six miscarriages".
“The first time that you go in and they tell you, ‘Oh there’s no heartbeat,’ it’s devastating,” Kerrigan said during the filming of the show.
“I felt like a failure,” she added, after detailing how doctors were never able to determine why she kept miscarrying.
After undergoing IVF, Kerrigan finally welcomed Brian in 2005.
“I think about it now and remember we couldn’t come up with a name for Brian,” she said. “I wonder if we probably were afraid to come up with a name because that makes you close and we could lose him.”
Listen: The Binge, on why we can't laugh at I, Tonya. (Post continues after audio...)
She went on to tell Good Morning America her struggle to fall pregnant for a second time was hard on both her confidence and her marriage.
"It's devastating and it's so hard on your marriage," she said in 2017. "You think, 'What's wrong with me?'
"People have babies every day. This is such a natural thing. Why would I keep losing a baby? What did I do (wrong)?"
In 1999, Kerrigan had founded The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation, which serves those with impaired eyesight as her mother, Brenda, is legally blind.
But the truly pivotal moment of Nancy Kerrigan's life was this:
In January 2010, some two years after welcoming her third child into the world, Kerrigan's father, Daniel Kerrigan, passed away. Nancy's brother - Danie's son - was charged with his death after police alleged the older Kerrigan died after he and his son had a physical struggle over a telephone.
At the time, the Associated Press reported prosecutors said Mark Kerrigan grabbed his father around the neck with such force that "he broke cartilage in his father's larynx and triggered heart failure".
After a nine-day trial, Mark Kerrigan was acquitted of manslaughter and instead convicted of a misdemeanour assault and battery charge. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years - the maximum sentence - because of four prior arrests for drunken driving and repeated failure to address substance abuse and mental health issues.
"We continue to believe that were it not for the actions of this defendant, we would not be here today and Mr Kerrigan would not have died in the manner that he did - on the floor of his home," Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone told the media after the verdict was announced.
However, Nancy and her mother Brenda gave their full support to Mark during and after the trial.
“He shouldn’t have been charged,’’ Kerrigan told the Today Show in 2013. “My dad had a heart attack and that’s that. Since then, we did the same thing we’ve always done — take things one thing at a time, and you get through it. Life’s challenging and hard, and we stick together and move on.
“He’s just getting on with his life,’’ she added. “I’m sure not easy when it’s brought up like this because unfortunately being my (brother) it’s brought up again, which is really too bad for him because he wants to move on with his life.”
As for Harding, well, Kerrigan says she's never actually received a direct apology from the woman who tried, with such malice, to derail the career she worked so hard to build.
“It’s sad, the bizarre craziness that all transpired,” she told NBC documentary Nancy & Tonya in 2014.
“I had people asking me, ‘Do you think she had anything to do with it?’ And I, my reaction to that was, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ To me, this had to have been some random act,” she said.
However, she later suggested her thought process flipped a little with more time to think.
“I can remember saying to the FBI, ‘Well, maybe Tonya really didn’t know, maybe they did [the attack] for her,” she says. “And they said, ‘Nancy, we can’t prove it, but we think she was the mastermind of the whole thing.’”
As for the film, Kerrigan told the Boston Globe last month she had not seen it and had very little to say.
“Not right now,’’ she said. “I really have nothing to say about it. I haven’t seen anything. I haven’t watched anything.
“I’ve been busy. I was at the national [figure skating] championships this week so I didn’t watch the Golden Globes. I haven’t seen the movie. I’m just busy living my life.’’
When probed about the largely sympathetic portrayal of Harding, Kerrigan was concise, if a little pointed:
"As you say, I was the victim," she said. "Like, that's my role in this whole thing. That's it."