Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding said that her mother abused her throughout her childhood, including that she once threw a steak knife at her, and that any support from her mother came at an emotional price.
“I don’t think that there was more than one day a week, sometimes, that I didn’t get beaten,” Harding told ABC’s Amy Robach.
But her mother, LaVona “Sandy” Golden, told ABC News that wasn’t the case at all.
“I didn’t abuse any of my children,” Golden said. “Spanked? Yes, [I] spanked. Absolutely, positively you [have] got to show them right from wrong.”
Harding and her tumultuous relationship with her mother are receiving new attention in the movie, “I, Tonya,” which was inspired by Harding’s life and includes a scene in which Allison Janney, who plays Golden, throws a steak knife at Harding, played by actress Margot Robbie. Janney won a Golden Globe award Sunday night for her portrayal of Golden.
Golden’s new ABC News interview will be featured in the two-hour special “Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story,” on Thursday, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Tonya Harding was just 3 years old when she stepped out onto the ice for the first time, and her mother said she knew instantly that her daughter had a talent for figure skating.
“Whatever the other people were doing, she turned around right behind them and did the same thing,” Golden said. “She wasn’t supposed to be able to do any of it, but she just went and did it.”
“Tonya was my little dynamo,” she added. “I called her my little twinkle, my little star.”
Golden said Harding was the youngest of four children. Harding’s father is Golden’s third husband. She said the family had a modest life together.
“Tonya herself called us trailer trash. We were never trailer trash. We had a beautiful new trailer,” Golden said. “We didn’t live in filth or dirt or anything that I would call unusual.”
As her childhood progressed, Harding spent most of her days on the ice, practicing and in competitions. Her mother said that she worked overtime to pay for the sport’s expenses, like lessons, costumes and competition fees.
Golden said she had jobs as a waitress, a bartender and a cook, adding, “I was working right around the clock, morning, noon, and night, trying to get the money for her to skate and have lessons…. I had to work sometimes two and three jobs a day trying to make ends meet.”
“My mother did pay for skating, but I worked at the rink for my ice time or I worked at the roller rink for my ice time,” Harding told ABC News’ Amy Robach. “It’s a very expensive sport.”
But Harding said that while her mother helped her pay for skating, that support came with a price. Harding said her mother once hit her in the bathroom at an ice rink, saying, “I remember she dragged me into the bathroom and beat me with a hairbrush, literally.”
Golden admitted it. “I spanked her once with a hairbrush at a competition,” said Golden, but claimed that it was an isolated incident.
But Harding alleges that the abuse went far beyond a single swat with a hairbrush. She says that once when she was in high school, her mother threw a steak knife at her, which landed in her forearm. Harding said she tried to leave the house in the middle of a conversation with her mother when she was struck.
“And that’s when it happened,” Harding said. “I was about 10 feet from her. It was a steak knife.”
However, Golden denies that the incident ever occurred. “Why would I throw a steak knife at anybody?” Golden said, claiming that her daughter has a history of being dishonest. “She’s lied so much she doesn’t know what isn’t a lie anymore.”
Harding became a force of nature on the ice. She skated her way to victory at the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships, where she became the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition, and she went on to compete at the 1992 and the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Today, Harding has her own family — a husband of seven years, and a son.
“With my husband and my son, I get my second chance in life to be loved and to be happy,” she said.
Golden said she has never met her grandson, and Harding said that’s not going to change.
“I don’t want her anywhere near me. I don’t want her anywhere near my son,” Harding said of her mother. “She wants forgiveness. She wants to see me. She wants to make amends. She wants to meet and be part of the family. Hell no.”