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ESPN documentary revisits Kerrigan-Harding

'The Price of Gold' takes modern view on skating's notorious crime
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Twenty years later, Tonya Harding's involvement in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan remains a mystery. -courtesy of ESPN Films

You could say The Price of Gold, a 90-minute documentary that is part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series, was a project 20 years in the making. Nanette Burstein, a producer and director with extensive credits in both documentaries and scripted film and television -- everything from the sitcom New Girl to Katy Perry: Part of Me -- has always had a fascination with the sport of figure skating.

"Twenty years ago, I was obsessed with this story," Burstein said in reference to the film that revisits the attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit and the immediate aftermath for both Kerrigan and her U.S. rival, Tonya Harding. The Price of Gold premieres Jan. 16 on ESPN.

"I found it fascinating that something like this could happen in a sport where grace and poise are so important," Burnstein said. "It's one of the most unusual sports stories in history. I've actually always wanted to do a film about it."

Although the film focuses almost exclusively on the six weeks between the attack and the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, The Price of Gold includes extensive current interviews, including with Kerrigan's coaches, Mary and Evy Scotvold; friend and former training mate Paul Wylie; Scott Hamilton; CBS anchor Connie Chung; several journalists; the FBI investigator; the district attorney who prosecuted the perpetrators; and even Harding herself. Notably absent except in vintage footage is Kerrigan, who declined to be interviewed, although her husband/agent Jerry Solomon does appear.

Burstein said Harding's tough upbringing and athletic approach to a traditionally graceful sport initially made her a sympathetic character, but lingering, unanswered questions about her involvement in the planning of the attack remain.

"She's a very complicated person," Burstein said. "I interviewed her for several hours, then went back and did a second interview with her.

"When she talks about what happened leading up to '94, there are a lot of holes to the story that she gets angry if you push her to explain," she added. "Is she telling the truth? You don't know."

In an effort to get diverse perspectives, Burstein said she pre-interviewed everyone on the phone to get a sense of what they knew and what their opinions were. She spoke at length with Shane Stant, the assailant who clubbed Kerrigan, but he declined to appear on camera because he looks quite different than he did 20 years ago and enjoys his anonymity.

"I wanted, obviously, Tonya's point of view, but I also wanted the points of view of those around her who were close to her, like her coaches, her friend, Sandra," said Burstein, referring to Harding's childhood friend, Sandra Luckow, who provided footage from a video she made in 1986 chronicling Harding's first trip to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in senior ladies.

"I also wanted the legal perspective," Burstein continued. "Obviously, the whole investigation played a huge role on events that went down.

"Being able to get some perspective on what happened on Nancy's end and how she was able to come back and compete in the Olympics."

Harding, now 43, voiced her innocence in the planning of the attack and her lingering anger and frustration about how she was treated.

"How I was treated by everybody out there was not OK," Harding said in one clip. She also noted that she believed the powers-that-be in skating thought, "She won't get anything in her life to do with skating ever again, ever, ever again."

While the Internet, social media and iPhones did not exist in 1994, it was at a time where the 24/7 news cycle was in the forefront, and this story filled a lot of hours of the international consciousness.

"Within that six-week period (from the attack to the Olympics), the story changed every day," Burstein said. "Not a day went by when there wasn't a new twist or turn to the story."

Burstein said she hopes people are moved by the film, which provides minimal updates on the years since then.

"It says a lot about gender and class, and it says a lot about how the media [portrayed it]," she said. "I think it raises a lot of really interesting issues that are still very relevant today."