This week marks the 20th anniversary of the women’s figure skating competition at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Above all else, those games will forever be remembered for the drama involving Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. Even though it’s been 20 long years, those two names are still linked together more than ever.
Kerrigan has made her return to Olympics this year in Sochi as a commentator for skating events, while Harding is still banned from the sport for life following the drama of early 1994.
The 30/30 film ‘The Price of Gold’ has recently stirred up old memories from 20 years ago and shed some new light on one of the most infamous incidents in sports history. After viewing the documentary, there’s no doubt in my mind that their rivalry will never be topped in the Olympics.
Mainstream sports are always going to get more coverage than sports like figure skating. There’s little chance people will consider Kerrigan/Harding the greatest sports rivalry of all time one day, but it’s going to very hard to say it’s not the best Olympic feud of all time.
If you haven’t watched the 30/30 film yet, do it. Don’t hesitate because it’s about figure skating — the story is amazing. Unless you followed skating very closely back in 1994, there are many new things you’ll learn about this rivalry. I didn’t realize just how good Harding once was and how hard she had to fight to get a spot at the top of the industry.
After viewing the movie you’ll have a new appreciation for this rivalry. As Tony Kornheiser points out, soap operas wish they had storylines as good as the Kerrigan/Harding drama. It’s crazy to think such a feud went down, and it’s even crazier to think how big it would have blown up in today’s world of instant information.
In closing, here a few viewership facts to consider. These numbers give context to just how big of a deal this rivalry was:
The short program featuring the two skaters from February 23, 1994 averaged a household rating of 48.5, the seventh highest rated show in the history of TV. The long program from February 25th averaged a household rating of 44.1, which is the 20th highest rated sporting event in TV history. Both telecasts averaged over 70 million viewers.
That’s right, figure skating drew Super Bowl numbers.