The SOCHI Winter Games are here and the city is not ready. There are threats of terrorism, and plenty of tension to go around, but we are NOT going to talk about the 2014 SOCHI Winter Olympics. We are going to talk about the 1994 Winter Olympics...
Twenty years ago at the 1994 Winter Olympics, the first Ukrainian won the gold medal for figure skating at the Olympics. But nobody was talking about her until she won. Nobody.
Figure Skating is a competition that requires more skill than I ever want to put into anything. These kids start at age three on some occasions, and continue until their bodies can no longer persist this sport. I remember being invested in the figure skating competition in 1994, like everyone else in the world, because there were some ruffians about, police-club-wielding-ruffians. Yes, Ruffians + Figure Skating = The 1994 Winter Olympics. How is this possible you ask. Well, I will tell you…
A long time ago, in 1970, in a small town called Portland, Oregon, a future star was born. This “Future Star” did not have the ideal childhood; her half brother was killed by a hit and run driver, her father was jobless during most of her childhood, and her mother abused her. No wonder she was married by 19 to an abusive husband. “I had to get away from my mother, and I fell for someone who was a few years older,” she says. “You know, he hit me, but she hit me, but they loved me.” Our “future star” felt she could do something amazing and winning the gold at the Olympics was her goal… Just one problem.
The “Problem” was more beautiful, more talented, and more likable. Our “Future Star” seemed homely and tired. The “problem” had a beautiful smile and beautiful costumes. Our “Future Star’s” costumes were hand made by her mom. This “Problem” was to Disneyland, what our “Future Star” was to the neighborhood carnival. This “Future Star” had this feeling that next to her “Problem”/opponent she would never be the best, which was probably the catalyst to the most peculiar incident in figure skating history.
Our “Future Star” knew she could skate well, it seemed as if it was the only thing she could do well, and she intended on biting that gold. She began at 3 years old and hit her first triple lutz at age 12. She was the first woman to perform a triple axel at the Fall 1991 Skate America . But she needed to win an Olympic medal, and so, she decided on the sure thing; cheat…even if that meant taking a club and smashing the competitions leg.
“Huh?” you say?
Yup, this “Future Star” conspired with her ex-husband, then hired someone to assault her nemesis, disabling her from skating, and clearing the path to gold. The victim’s attacker used a police club, injuring her and delaying her practice and performances.
Turns out, the “Problem” heals fast, and come Olympics time, she was ready to perform. The “Problem” won the short form competition, but when it came time for the big event, she only achieved the silver medal. "Who got the gold?" you ask?
Nope, not our “Future Star.”
Yes, Oksana Baiul. A 16-year-old Ukrainian, who had to get Olympic approved injections before performing because of an injury she acquired during practice; a young skater who practiced on damaged ice that had to be hand shaven because they couldn’t afford the simple alternative. A young skater who won competitions with crooked blades. Following the Olympics, Oksana signed a contract to tour America with the Champions on Ice.
Tonya Harding, our “Future Star” aka “Poor Sport”, came in 8th. Harding never recovered. Even during the figure skating boom immediately following the '94 Winter Olympics, Harding was banned from competing. She reaped zero rewards. No gold, no silver, no bronze.
Even Kerrigan wasn't immune to a little bad press, despite trying to maintain a squeaky clean image. She was favored to win, and when she didn’t, controversy ensued.
ESPN just released a new 30 for 30 documenting this crazy tale. “The Price for Gold” aired January 16th, 2014.
I don’t want to jinx it, but nothing at SOCHI is more interesting than the 1994 Winter Olympics. Except maybe for this.