Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding

As they prepare for their ice skating date, Rory identifies herself as Nancy Kerrigan [pictured on the right], while Lorelai says she is Tonya Harding [left].

Nancy Kerrigan (born 1969) is a former figure skater, who became the US Champion in 1993. In 1994 she was clubbed in the knee by an assailant hired by the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding (born 1970), in an attempt to break her leg so that she would be unable to compete at the Winter Olympics.

The attack took place at the US Figure Skating Championships, ruling her out of the competition, which was won by Harding. Kerrigan made a good recovery from her injury (her knee was only bruised, not broken), and won silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics, held seven weeks later.

In March 1994, Harding pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers. She was fined and sentenced to community service, and was also forced to withdraw from the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships and to resign from the US Figure Skating Association. She was later stripped of her 1994 US Championships title and banned for life from participating in professional ice skating events in any capacity.

The fevered publicity generated by the scandal created a boom in professional ice skating, and may have even contributed to Rory’s interest in the skating film Ice Castles; like Lexie in the film, both Kerrigan and Harding came from modest backgrounds.

It is entirely within character that Rory identifies with the pageant-pretty “ice princess” Kerrigan who learned to fit in with the social conventions of the skating world, while Lorelai identifies with Harding – generally seen as an overly-dramatic emotional mess from the wrong side of the tracks. Harding also had issues with her mother, just as Lorelai does with Emily.

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