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Tuesday
Jan022018

Tonya Harding says she 'knew something was up' before infamous 1994 baton attack on Nancy Kerrigan

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding said she “knew something was up” about a month or two before the infamous 1994 baton attack was carried out on her Olympic teammate and longtime rival Nancy Kerrigan.

In a new clip released Tuesday from her interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach, Harding maintained that she never agreed to or knew about her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly’s plan to go after Kerrigan, but she admitted, “I did, however, overhear them talking about stuff, where, ‘Well, maybe we should take somebody out so we can make sure she gets on the team.' And I remember telling them, I go, ‘What the hell are you talking about? I can skate.’”

"This was, like, a month or two months before [the attack]," Harding continued. "But they were talking about skating and saying, 'Well, maybe somebody should be taken out so then, you know, she can make it.'"

On Jan. 6, 1994, during a practice session for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Kerrigan was clubbed on the right knee with a baton by an unidentified assailant. The man was later found to have been hired by Harding’s ex-husband and his friend, Shawn Eckardt.

News cameras captured Kerrigan wailing in pain after the attack. “It makes you cringe, hearing it,” Harding said. “Because you know how much that it had to have hurt.”

Both Gillooly and Eckardt pleaded guilty to racketeering for their involvement in the incident. Gillooly was sentenced to two years in prison and Eckardt was sentenced to 18 months.

Harding denied having any involvement in the attack but pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution. She had to pay a $160,000 fine and was sentenced to three years’ probation and 500 hours community service.

In addition, she was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Harding opened up about the incident, as well as her difficult childhood, allegations of abuse from her mother and ex-husband, her rise in competitive figure skating and the depiction of her life in the new critically-acclaimed movie, “I, Tonya,” starring actress Margot Robbie, in ABC News’ two-hour special, “Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story,” which airs Jan. 11, 2018, at 9 p.m. ET.

When asked if she had ever apologized to Kerrigan, Harding said she had multiple times. “Enough apologizing,” she said. Kerrigan told ABC News in April that she had never received a “direct” apology from Harding.

It’s been nearly 25 years since the incident and Harding said she knows people still think she’s “the bad person” for what happened. She said she still gets “angry” because “nobody wanted to ever believe” that she had nothing to do with it and claims she and Kerrigan were friends at the time.

“The media had me convicted of doing something wrong before I had even done anything at all, before I had talked to anyone, before I get out of bed. I'm always the bad person,” Harding said. “Is it a challenge from the Lord to see how far I can be pushed until I break and become nothing?”

Harding married Gillooly at age 19 and divorced him in 1993 – a year before the attack on Kerrigan. When asked if she ever feared for her life when she was with her ex-husband, Harding said, “many times.”

“He didn’t destroy me,” she said. “Nobody can.”

Harding has since remarried and has a son, though she remains estranged from her mother, LaVona “Sandy” Golden.

“She wants forgiveness, she wants to see me, she wants to make amends, she wants to meet and be a part of the family, hell no,” Harding said.

Both Golden and Gillooly have long denied Harding’s abuse allegations.

Despite what she went through in the years following the attack, Harding said her faith has allowed her to persevere.

“You can’t push me that far anymore ‘cause I’ve been nothing. And I’ve been nothing several times. But it’s my faith in myself and in my father that comes back to me and makes me get back up off my butt and be something worth being proud of,” she said.

“My family, we are a loving family,” she added. “I get my second chance at life to be loved and be happy.”

Watch ABC News’ two-hour special, “Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story,” on Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. ET.

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