IN a few weeks, a film entitled ‘I, Tonya’ will be released in the UK. It is about the now infamous tale of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, two American figure skaters who were involved in a quite remarkable sequence of events, which resulted in Harding being banned for life from the sport and finding notoriety as a result.

In the early 1990s, Harding was one of the world’s best figure skaters – she was US champion and world silver medallist in 1991 – and as the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer approached, she was one of, if not the outright favourite for gold. Her skating was defined by her incredible power, and she was the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition.

One of Harding’s main rivals for Olympic gold in 1994 was her compatriot, Kerrigan. The two could not have been more contrasting; Harding, from Oregon, had a rough upbringing and a troubled childhood – she was abused both physically and mentally by her mother and later, was the victim of domestic abuse by her husband. In stark contrast, Kerrigan was the all-American girl – classically elegant and popular with skating and non-skating fans alike.

What happened in the lead-up to the 1994 Games is so astonishing it is barely believable. As Kerrigan left the ice after a practice session, she was attacked by a man who was later identified as Shane Stant, who had been hired by Harding’s ex-husband to carry out the attack. Stant tried to basically kneecap Kerrigan which would result in her missing the Winter Olympics, but he botched the attempt, leaving her with only bruises, meaning she was able to compete in the Games a few months later.

The media frenzy that ensued was unlike anything seen before and Kerrigan ultimately finished in bronze medal position in Lillehammer while Harding finished down in eighth place. However, Harding was subsequently banned from the sport for life having been found to have hindered the prosecution following the attack on Kerrigan and she was effectively black-listed within the skating world.

‘I, Tonya’ has had favourable reviews in America - it is no wonder; the story and all its nuances are so remarkable that had it been fiction, it would have been deemed too outrageous to be believable.

But the story of Harding also typifies exactly why sport is so thrilling to us all. There are few other areas in which an individual can become such an unlikely success. Harding began skating at the age of just three and was spotted to have a unique talent. However, she was not the typical figure skater – she was muscly and powerful, which many within the sport did not like. She was not graceful and elegant, rather she was rough and ready and as a result, she faced much snobbery and discrimination from those within the sport whose idea of figure skaters was more like princesses that a grunting athlete. Despite the resistance though, Harding made it to the very top of her sport and there is something hugely refreshing and heartening about that being possible, regardless of the obstacles that are in the way.

And what is also so unfailingly brilliant about sport is that despite having a troubled upbringing and despite having the odds stacked against her in almost every way possible, Harding found a way out of the deprivation that she grew up in, although the attack and her association with it meant that she was never able to reap the benefits that her skating deserved.

More often than not, it is the individuals like Harding that I am attracted to in sport. Not the Snow White-type athletes who fit every stereotype and who don’t rock the boat in any way. It is the ones, like Harding, who are different and who prove that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can succeed in sport is what I like.

‘I, Tonya’ is more of a mocumentary than a documentary due to the still sketchy facts that surround the case – every person involved appears to have a different account. It does, however, appear that Harding was not involved in the initial formation of the plan, only the cover-up. But whatever the truth, I hope that sport continues to uncover people like Harding.