From the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in Portland, Oregon, former competitive figure skater Tonya Harding was never fully accepted in the figure skating community for not inherently being the image of grace, breeding, and privilege that the community wanted to portray, despite being naturally gifted in the sport athletically. Despite ultimately garnering some success in figure skating being national champion, a world championship medalist, an Olympian, and being the first American woman to complete a Triple Axel in competition, she is arguably best known for her association to “the incident”: the leg bashing on January 6, 1994 of her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, who, unlike Tonya, was everything that the figure-skating community wanted in their representatives. Her association to that incident led to Tonya being banned from competitive figure skating for life. Tonya’s story from the beginning of her figure-skating life at age four to the aftermath of the incident is presented. Besides Tonya herself, key people in her life give their perspective of their role in her life. Although they may agree on the broad issues at hand, such as that the incident did occur, they may vary widely in their recollection of the details. These people are: her waitress mother Lavona Golden, who despite having paid for her expensive figure-skating lessons, was abusive toward her physically and emotionally, never believing she was good enough in any aspect of the word, and who pulled her from school to focus solely on the figure skating; Diane Rawlinson, her first and longest-serving coach, who, for good or bad, largely let Tonya be Tonya in the way she presented herself to the figure skating world; Jeff Gillooly, her first husband, and partner in a turbulent relationship on a need to be loved, perhaps without truly loving each other; Jeff’s friend and Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, a dim bulb who believed himself to be a bigger player in the big scheme of life than he actually was; and sports journalist Martin Maddox, a fictional character who provides general commentary of what the sports media as a collective wanted out of Tonya and the incident.—Huggo
Although Margot Robbie trained extensively for the role, she was not able to perform a triple axel, nor could a skating double be found to do so, as very few women figure skaters are able to perform the jump. Producer Tom Ackerley stated, “There have been only six women since Tonya Harding who have done a triple axel; even if there was one who was doing it today, she’d be training for the Olympics and couldn’t risk doing it for the film.” The jump was accomplished with the use of visual effects.