Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding

Athlete Biography

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Tonya Harding is partnered with Pro Sasha Farber. Watch their Meet the Cast video now!

Tonya Harding's love of ice skating began at the age of three while accompanying her parents, LaVona and Al Harding, to Portland's Lloyd Center shopping mall. Besides the many stores, the mall also had an ice skating rink. When Tonya saw the rink, she wanted to try it out and discovered that she really liked it. Eventually her parents bought her very first pair of ice skates, and it wasn't long before she wanted to take lessons, too. Her parents didn't have a lot of income, so hiring a private coach seemed completely out of the question. However, Tonya's natural ability to ice skate was beginning to attract attention. It wasn't long before Tonya's mom approached Diane Rawlinson, a former "Ice Capades" star. With Diane's coaching and Tonya's natural talent, she won her first competition at the age of five. By age eight, she completed her first triple jump and by age 12 she began experimenting with her trademark jump, The Triple Axel, and had already won several medals in numerous competitions. By age 15, she was known for her natural athletic ability and for being the highest jumper and fastest spinner among female skaters.

In 1988 at age 18, she became the first American woman to win a Russian award as a figure skater. In 1991 at Senior Nationals, Tonya skated two perfect programs and won her First National Title. She received a 6.0 for technical merit, the first perfect score any woman had received in this competition in nearly two decades. During her title winning program, Tonya attempted and landed the extremely difficult Triple Axel. By doing so, she became the very first American woman, and the only other woman in the world, besides Madori Ito of Japan, to even attempt this jump, let alone to successfully perform it in a competition.

Tonya then went on to Worlds, where she performed this difficult jump once again. She earned the Silver Medal in that competition. Soon after, at "Skate America," she performed the jump once again, breaking two world records and winning the championship. In 1991, Tonya began touring with "Tom Collins Champions on Ice." During this time she was the first and only woman to land a Triple Axel in both the short and long programs, something that no other American female figure skater had ever achieved. In 1992, she competed in her First Olympics at Albertville, France, placing 4th.

In 1994, she once again won the Nationals title and went on to compete at her second Olympics. However, a scandal involving Tonya's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly Stone, and some of his friends changed her skating career and dreams of Olympic Gold forever.

In 1999, Tonya made a huge comeback in the skating world. She was invited to compete in her first competition in five years at the ESPN professional competition in Huntington, West Virginia, where she placed 2nd. In 2003, she appeared on the Fox reality show Celebrity Boxing, and not long after the airing of that show, she was contacted by several people in the professional boxing world. After giving it some serious thought, she hired trainers and became a professional boxer. She did a total of six boxing matches. Her current pro standing is 3-3. She has also done between 10-12 exhibition boxing matches, to very large and enthusiastic crowds.

Most recently was the feature film about Tonya's life, I, Tonya, written by Steven Rogers and starring Margot Robbie as Tonya and Allison Janney as mother LaVona, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the role. Tonya is now married and has an adorable son and a wonderful husband. She and her family have settled into a peaceful loving existence, and she is very happy.