Dr. Mary Lynn Watts has tried to remain anonymous since that fateful day on Jan. 6, 1994.
A figure skater at heart, the East Detroit (now Eastpointe) native and Michigan State grad was thrilled to be on staff at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Cobo Hall.
A scream ruined what was supposed to be a routine day.
The scream came from Nancy Kerrigan, who was attacked by Shane Stant in an effort to keep her from competing against Harding at the trials and the Olympic Games.
The bizarre attack is playing out again this week in theaters across the country in the film "I, Tonya," starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding. The two-hour film is currently playing at the Landmark Main Art Theater in Royal Oak; the MJR Troy Digital Cinema 16 in Troy and the Phoenix Theaters in Livonia.
But for Watts, it's personal.
“I was just working volunteer medical coverage,’’ said Watts, 54, who is now retired and living in Grand Rapids. “The DMC and St. John Hospital were teamed up to provide the medical coverage. I was one of many doctors invited. As a former figure skater, I jumped right on it. I figured figure skating would be something wonderful.’’
Then the scream.
“She (Kerrigan) had gotten off the ice and walked through the curtain, then I heard her screaming. It was like how do you get hurt off the ice?" Watts recalled while driving to her home in Grand Rapids from St. Clair Shores. "When I got to her, there was nobody around her. She was just on the ground grabbing her leg and screaming. She was just screaming at first. Nothing was coming out. Just in total shock.
“It wasn’t until she calmed down a little bit that she was able to realize what happened to her.’’
Watts said as a first responder, she went through a checklist of procedures.
“My first thing was getting in her face and asking what happened,’’ said Watts. “It took her a bit of time to be able to calm down enough to pantomime that some guy hit her. When people came around people asked what happened, and I said, 'She said some guy hit her.' I helped her get out of her skates and eventually got her to calm down and administered first aid.’’
Besides worrying about the condition of Kerrigan, Watts was hoping Detroit wouldn’t get a bad name from the incident.
“I was worried about that, too,’’ she said. “I’m going ‘No, we don’t need that here in Detroit.’ In a way, it was kind of good it wasn’t someone from Detroit.’’
As it turned out, Harding, husband Jeff Gillooly and accomplice Shawn Eckardt were behind the incident.
On Jan. 11, 1994, Derrick Smith, an associate of Eckardt's, confessed to FBI agents. Three days later, Stant surrendered and also confessed. Harding was questioned but denied involvement. Gillooly was charged with conspiracy to assault Kerrigan. He eventually agreed to a deal in which he implicated Harding.
“They manage to resurrect it once a year for the drama,’’ said Watts. “I’m not sure why it became more popular than any of the other sports people who have been attacked.’’
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