Tonya Harding

 

 Tonya Maxene Harding was born on November 12, 1970 in Portland, Oregon. Her parents were Albert Harding (born in 1933) and LaVona Golden Harding (born in 1940). She was the pair’s only child. Their marriage, incidentally, was her father’s first but her mother’s fifth.Tonya’s childhood was not an easy one. A self-described “daddy’s girl,” she did enjoy learning to hunt, to play pool, and to shoot from her father. He also taught her about fixing cars. Her mother, however, was a cold, unpleasant woman who had few maternal instincts. She often physically abused Tonya, even spanking her, according to one of Tonya’s childhood friends, with a hairbrush.And, of course, the family had to contend with poverty. As an unskilled laborer, her father held various low-paying jobs, from delivery truck driving to apartment management to standing behind the counter at a bait shop. Though he did his best, poor health often caused him to be unemployed for long periods. Tonya’s mother worked off-and-on as a waitress. To bring in a little extra cash, she and Tonya sometimes searched the sides of roads for empty bottles that could be turned in for the deposits.Tonya Harding’s skating career literally began at age three (!), when she was first taken to the Ice Chalet skating rink in Portland. As soon as she ventured out on the ice in skates, Tonya had no trouble keeping her balance and skating along. Soon, she was imitating the jumps and turns performed by experienced adults.To her credit, Tonya’s mother recognized that Tonya had exceptional talent, and took her to a rink where renowned coach Diane Rawlinson taught skating. Rawlinson immediately took Tonya under her wing, and a decades-long relationship was formed.Tonya easily worked her way upward in the local figure skating world, rapidly graduating to statewide and national events. By 1986, she was competing in the U. S. Figure Skating Championships. That year, she placed sixth. In 1987 and 1988, she placed fifth, and rose to third in 1989. Dody Teachman became her new coach.Tonya became famous when, in 1991, she successfully performed a triple Axel at the U. S. Championships. She was the first American woman ever to accomplish this. She received the U. S. Ladies Singles Title with a perfect 6.0 score. After winning the Long Program as well, Tonya came in first place for the entire Championship.Tonya then competed for the 1991 World Championship, where she again performed the triple Axel. Kristi Yamaguchi won the Championship, but Tonya came in second, and Nancy Kerrigan third.Eventually, Tonya went back to being coached by Diane Rawlinson. Though she did not win, she placed well in several championships in the U.S. and Canada.By the beginning of 1994, Tonya was again setting her sights on the U. S. Championship, and afterward, the Olympics. However, an event was about to take place that would change figure skating, and the lives of many figure skaters including Tonya’s, forever.Tonya Harding became the first U.S. woman to land the triple Axel in competition when she completed it 45 seconds into her free skate at the 1991 U.S. championships. The second was 15 year old Kimmie Meissner in 2005. She finished in third place during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon.The triple Axel is the Everest of women’s figure skating, both terrifying and compelling. The only jump that starts on the forward foot, it explodes in 31/2 revolutions — yet demands a delicate touch on takeoff and iron strength on landing.

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