‘I, Tonya’: hardcore figure skating

Text: Reto Baer

Margot Robbie dazzles in ‘I, Tonya’ as figure skater Tonya Harding. Harding went down in history not only because she was the first woman to land two triple axels in a single competition, but also because she became embroiled in an attack on a competitor. It’s wild, wacky and captivating.

First of all, let’s be honest: figure skating on the big screen? I’m a man, I want to see action and explosions. Or so I thought as I went to the press screening of I, Tonya, but it didn’t take long for me to be swept away, and I was kept on the edge of my seat right to the end by Tonya Harding’s dogged tenacity.


Figure skating comes across as so hardcore that I found myself regretting not having watched more of the Winter Olympics. As the camera flits across the ice with Tonya Harding, circling her in one moment and looking down from above the next, it’s a truly incredible cinematic experience. The cameraman deserves an Oscar. However, ‘only’ the editor, as well as actresses Margot Robbie and Allison Janney – who plays Harding’s mother and trainer in the spirit of a Full Metal Jacket drill instructor – were nominated. The 58-year-old Janney has already received a Golden Globe for her performance.

‘Allison Janney plays Harding’s mother and trainer in the spirit of a Full Metal Jacket drill instructor.’


How it all began: little Tonya with her brutal trainer LaVona (Allison Janney).

The real highlight, however, is 27-year-old Margot Robbie, who plays Harding as a hyper-ambitious athlete who wants to use figure skating to escape her ‘white trash’ background. But her dreams of success are repeatedly dashed by the judges, for whom the furious athlete isn’t respectable enough to represent the US. And so the rage and frustration build. A few unprintable things are said. And then the blood flows.


Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) shows the judges her broken lace.

Tonya Harding, from Portland, Oregon, will forever be associated with the attack on her competitor Nancy Kerrigan. But according to the film, she had very little to do with the 1994 attack. Her husband, who is not depicted as the brightest bulb in the box, is portrayed as the one who instructed two incompetent thugs to put pressure on Kerrigan – one of whom had the bright idea of breaking the figure skater’s knee with an iron bar. In no time at all, the FBI are knocking on Tonya Harding’s door.

‘He had the bright idea of breaking the figure skater’s knee with an iron bar.’


After the attack, Tonya Harding becomes a media sensation.

It’s a perfect story to put on film. You have to wonder why Hollywood didn’t make use of this sporting scandal any earlier – the Coen brothers could have portrayed the idiotic attackers in the same appealingly odd style that they used in Fargo. Instead, it’s taken until now for the previously unknown director Craig Gillespie to take on the story, and he’s done it in style. I, Tonya is one of the best sports films I’ve ever seen. Anyone who doesn’t get to the cinema to see it has only themselves to blame. And don’t forget to sit through the credits to see the real-life archive footage! It will blow you away all over again.

I, Tonya is playing in the following Zurich cinemas:



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