Nancy Kerrigan speaks out on 'horrific' 1994 attack, dad's death

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
By Scott Stump

It's been nearly 20 years since Nancy Kerrigan was injured in an attack plotted by rival skater Tonya Harding. Since then Kerrigan, now a mother of three, has endured her father's death and her brother’s incarceration.

Kerrigan spoke publicly about the case involving her father and brother for the first time since 2010 in an interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY Friday. In June 2011, her brother, Mark, was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for assault and battery in connection with the death of her 70-year-old father, Daniel. Daniel died shortly after an altercation with his son in January 2010. The family has maintained that Daniel died from a pre-existing heart condition, but the district attorney in Middlesex County, Mass., charged Mark with involuntary manslaughter.  

“He shouldn’t have been charged,’’ Kerrigan told Lauer. “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.”

The judge in the case gave Mark the maximum assault and battery sentence, citing four prior arrests for drunken driving and repeated failure to address substance abuse and mental health issues. Mark was released in 2012 and now works a steady job, according to his sister.

“He’s just getting on with his life,’’ Kerrigan said. “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.”

Kerrigan spoke about watching footage of her own wailing after being attacked in 1994. She was clubbed in the right knee by Shane Stant, a man sent by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Television cameras caught Kerrigan clutching her knee and crying, “Why? Why?” as attendants rushed to help her. 

Though Kerrigan recovered and went on to win silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, watching the footage is still emotional, she said.

“Watching anything sort of horrific, it’s disturbing to see anybody in pain,’’ Kerrigan said. “To think it’s me…It’s a lifetime ago. It hurts to see anybody in such pain. It’s a long time ago. I just moved on.”

To this day, Kerrigan said strangers still approach her on the street to say she should have won gold or mistakenly congratulate her for the win. A controversial decision in the free skate gave Ukrainian skater Oksana Baiul the gold by a narrow margin.

“I only got second place by .1 or something so I think a lot of people really thought I should’ve won, so 20 years later you just think, ‘Oh she must’ve won,’’’ Kerrigan said. “I was just happy with the performance and to even be able to go and compete again after being attacked. It was such a thrill to be part of an Olympic team again and to be able to represent our country.”

Her performances in the Lillehammer Games came just seven weeks after the attack. She considers them the best of her career despite the drama surrounding her comeback.

“I think you can train and you can learn to focus and you can learn to do that but it’s to a different level when it’s at such high-level pressure,’’ she said. “It’s that (level) I think only a few people get to through adversity, through having to work through something. It’s a little more than just concentration. I don’t know how you get there without someone sort of forcing you into it.”

She still skates, often in events put on by her husband and manager, Jerry Solomon, but Kerrigan has traded the pressure of competing for domestic tranquility, spending the majority of her time raising her three children, Matthew, 16; Brian, 8; and Nicole, 5.

“I drive and cook and clean,’’ she told Lauer. “That’s basically what I do now.”