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Nancy Kerrigan: Mom, Athlete, Producer and Philanthropist

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As our photographer, Jill, and I drove to meet Olympic ice-skating legend Nancy Kerrigan at her home in Massachusetts, we were excited with child-like anticipation. We were about to meet one of our heroes, a true icon in women’s sports, and we could not wait. Jill regaled me with a story about one of her friends who decided to buy a Vera Wang-designed wedding dress for her wedding because she loved the design Wang had done for Nancy Kerrigan’s skating outfits. We talked about what we thought she would be like and all of her great achievements and we were anxiously excited about spending the afternoon with her.  

Of course, we all know Nancy Kerrigan. Back in the ’90s she was America’s sweetheart, a two-time Olympic medalist in women’s figure skating, having won a bronze medal in 1992 and a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics. In addition to her Olympic medals, she also won a silver medal in the 1992 World Championships and won the 1993 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships.

Just to be up front with our readers, the one incident Nancy Kerrigan is associated with during her figure skating career that involved another skater will not be discussed in this article, because she is truly so much more than that one moment in time.

When I met Nancy, she looked exactly as she looked 25 years ago. She was sweet, had date nut bread already made for us, and she was a little nervous about the photo shoot. It wasn’t because she hadn’t done them before, but because her life is so genuine and real that she was just like any other mom-busy, running around with her kids and, oh, by the way, people are coming from Albany, New York, to shoot pictures of you. Nancy was about as down to earth as you can get and immediately, I knew that her most important role is that of being a mom.  

Mom First
Nancy has three children, Matthew, 21, Brian, 14 and Nicole, 11, with her husband, Jerry Solomon, a sports agent to many household names and a former sports management company executive, whom she married in 1995. Nancy will admit that her children are her greatest accomplishment. “I have always wanted to be a mom since I was ten years old. Having children is the best thing that I ever did, and I am so happy that they are just really good people,” she reflected.

Those three precious kiddos did not come easily. Nancy endured six miscarriages on the way to becoming a mom of three. “Miscarriage is a lonely process when you are going through it because it is almost taboo to speak about,” she said. “Having Jerry by my side was important because it made it easier to deal with it together.” Jerry added, “It made us stronger because it forced us to really communicate, other than just about how your day was going, and we became a team.”  

Has motherhood changed Nancy Kerrigan? “I am not sure that it changed me. You definitely have to grow up and your focus is on someone else; you are not number one anymore, your kids are,” she replied.

The apples did not fall far from the tree. Her kids are all very passionate and directed those passions at early ages. Matthew is a costume designer working for the stage, film and TV and knew that he wanted to be that since he was four years old. Brian is an accomplished gymnast and just competed at Nationals and knew he wanted to be a gymnast when he was five. And Nicole started off in gymnastics but is now an aspiring ballerina and is an absolute delight. She was excited to have her new pointe ballet shoes and proudly showed them to us when we were at the house. “All of my kids knew their passion at an early age,” Nancy explained. “I support my children’s dreams and reinforce to them that in order to accomplish your dreams you have to work super hard, and even if you don’t obtain your dream you will have learned so much along the way. That journey is so much more important.”

Nancy further explained that there are so many kids who are talented and train hard and don’t make it to the Olympics, but they learned a lot about themselves during the process. Jerry added, “Nancy has the experience of being a world-class athlete and over the course of my career I have represented world-class athletes. We have a good understanding of what it takes to put in the effort to reach those dreams. The conundrum,” Jerry laughed, “is that we deal with what all parents deal with—our kids not always listening to our advice and second-guessing what Mom and Dad know.”

All in all, their kids are well grounded and extremely passionate about their dreams. Nancy’s, father, Daniel Kerrigan, often worked 3 jobs to put food on the table for the family and pay for Nancy’s ice-skating lessons. None of that sacrifice is lost on Nancy as she raises her own children, especially today with technology and the world delivering what you want to your doorstep overnight. “My children work very hard toward building their dreams and I recognize that they need to take time out for themselves and have some down time, which includes using technology,” Nancy explained. “I am also fortunate to have the time to be at home with them and make sure that we spend time playing as a family. In the summer we are in our pool playing games like Marco Polo and finding quarters at the bottom of the pool. Indoors, we play a lot of board games like Monopoly to get them off of the technology and spend time together as a family. The times we have with our kids are so short before they are all grown up.” 

Jerry added that their parenting style, to ensure their kids stay grounded, is to not reward them with extras just because they excel at something. For example, Nancy explains to their kids that food and a balanced meal are fuel for athletic performance. If they want to be picky and don’t want to eat the peas or whatever is in the dish, she will be okay with that, but she will also turn the car around in the parking lot and they will not go to practice. 

Outside of the passion she has for her family, Nancy has supported efforts for research and patient care for the blind. Her mother, Brenda, has been blind most of Nancy’s life, and the challenges of being blind are something Nancy has witnessed firsthand. The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation has raised significant money for the vision impaired and Nancy is a national spokesperson for Fight for Sight, a nonprofit organization that funds medical research in vision and ophthalmology.

Another passion project for her is a documentary about eating disorders that is in pre-production. Preliminarily named Just Lose 5lbs, it documents the struggle, particularly of athletes with eating disorders. Nancy admitted that she had an eating disorder and didn’t quite recognized it as one because at the time it was not as readily diagnosed. Her issue was obsessively thinking about everything she was putting in her mouth. Was it good for her or was it not? After all, as she explained, “In competitive ice skating you are constantly being judged. That was my life. Many times, you are eating and depriving yourself to just lose a few pounds, and then it’s another few pounds and the next thing you know you’ve lost a bunch of weight and are in a cycle.”

This documentary focuses on patients who are at McCallum Place in St. Louis, Missouri, a nationally acclaimed comprehensive treatment center for people with eating disorders. “At McCallum, some people may be there for over a year addressing the triggers that caused the behavior,” Nancy emphasized. This is an important topic and conversation Nancy wants to have to bring more awareness because, as she stated, “There are more athletes with eating disorders than with concussions. It is important that this issue is not taboo to speak about and we bring it to light.”

Embracing Challenges
In 2017, Nancy took on another challenge, participating in Season 24 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. She partnered with professional ballroom dancer Artem Chigvintsev and made it through six weeks before being eliminated. That experience was both mentally and physically challenging for her. Yes, Nancy is a former Olympian, but she was on stage with athletes who currently excelled in their fields, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and NFL running back Rashad Jennings, and being compared to them was not necessarily fair. 

“I am a competitor and I could feel that same competitive spirit I had 25 years ago, but my body was 25 years older,” she reflected. “I worked really hard and my body did not want to cooperate. I had never experienced cramping like I felt. And it was nerve wracking going from being a mom and doing laundry every day to practicing ballroom dance moves, having to fit into those costumes and being in front of judges again but, I worked hard and I did it!” She encourages all women of a certain age that it is never too late. “Find something you are excited about and just go for it,” she mused. 

The Inaugural Aurora Games Festival
Now, Nancy and Jerry have a new passion, the Aurora Games Festival taking place in Albany, New York, at the Times Union Center August 20 through 25, 2019. The Aurora Games is a first-of-its-kind sports and entertainment festival featuring over 100 elite female athletes and world-class competition in women’s tennis, gymnastics, basketball, figure skating, ice hockey, beach volleyball and table tennis. 

Similar to golf’s Ryder Cup format, it is the Americas vs. the World. Nancy serves on the Aurora Games Advisory Council and Jerry is the founder of the Aurora Games, for which he is well suited due to his experience producing world-class sports events and having once served as the director of the Volvo Grand Prix tennis circuit. He has experience dealing with elite female athletes and he noted the disparity that sometimes those athletes get in comparison. Three years ago, he and Nancy were watching the Olympics and they observed that the female athletes were doing better in medaling, yet did not receive the same amount of TV time as the male athletes. Thus, the idea for the Aurora Games was hatched.

In addition to Nancy, advisory board members include nine-time tennis Grand Slam Champion Monica Seles, 18-time tennis Grand Slam champion Chris Evert, seven-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Shannon Miller, internationally renowned tennis coach Judy Murray and six-time Olympic Track and Field Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner Kersee. Jackie also will serve as the honorary captain for the Americas Team, and five-time Olympic Gold medalist in gymnastics Nadia Comaneci, the first gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect ten in an Olympic game, will serve as honorary captain for the World Team. Athletes from over 20 countries will be participating.

Many other cities in the U.S. were under consideration for this inaugural event, but Jerry finally selected Albany. “I spoke with Bob Belber, manager at the Times Union Center, and explained the concept for the Aurora Games. He suggested that we look at Albany; I went to the TU center for an NCAA regional basketball game and there were 13,000 people there. I was also impressed with the walkway connecting to the Capitol Center, and I knew that would be perfect for our Fan Zone activities.” The Fan Zone will include opportunities for meet and greets with the athletes. 

World Class Competition
Additional athletes participating in the games are three-time U.S. National figure skating champion and Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, pro beach volleyball players Alix Klineman and April Ross. Professional basketball player Lindsay Whalen, a four-time WNBA all champion, five-time WNBA all-star, two-time Olympic gold medalist, will join 2017 Wimbledon Champion and 2016 French Open Champion Garbiñe Muguruza, among others.

Fans will also have an opportunity to meet and greet Aurora Games athletes or other legendary female athletes who have made a mark on their sport before the games begin. The New York Racing Association will be celebrating the Aurora Games during Fabulous Fillies Day at the Saratoga Racecourse on August 8, 2019.

This inaugural Aurora Games is such an important opportunity for the Capital Region. Without the event’ even having been consummated, other cities have already expressed interest to host the next games two years from now. If Albany is deemed successful as a location, the city is in contention to be a permanent host of the Aurora Games. But it’s much more than that, Jerry noted. “It’s a much bigger conversation about having a state-of-the-art women’s sports training and research complex, a hub of women’s sports regionally and nationally for elite female athletes to train and have the latest research conducted to improve training outcomes.”

According to Jerry, when everyone talks about equality in women’s sports, many think about disparity in pay, which is only one component. There are disparities in the way female athletes are trained, the amount of medical research on female athletes, the technical side of the sport, training recovery and how to best train a female athlete compared to a male athlete. 

What does a successful inaugural Aurora Games festival look like? For Jerry it is already a success. “We have 100 elite female athletes coming from all over the world. We have 20 national, regional and local sponsors; the event will be televised world-wide on ESPN U and we have received so much support from media all around the world that it’s already a success.” Jerry cautioned, “But the general public and TV audiences will judge it by how many people they see sitting in the seats watching the games, so it is important to get people to show up and watch these fantastic athletes.”

HERLIFE Nation: Your Presence Requested!
That is my plea to our HERLIFE readers. HERLIFE Magazine has spent eight years building women up and supporting their efforts. And we want HERLIFE Nation to show up and purchase tickets for these games. The Aurora Games is the embodiment of everything HERLIFE stands for—to build women up and show our daughters positive role models. 

Nancy has seen the hard work her husband has put forth to bring these games to Albany. “He often is on the phone all hours of the day and night with different countries’ athletic federations in different time zones, bringing everything together for this inaugural event. This is a big deal! I have watched my husband take a conversation we had while watching the Olympics and bring it all together. Elite female athletes from all over the world will be coming to Albany, New York, because of his hard work. He inspires me every day.”  

I am profoundly filled with the deepest appreciation for the time I was privileged to spend with both Nancy and Jerry. They are authentic, hardworking and truly inspirational people.

For more information on the Aurora Games, go to and check out Nancy Kerrigan on her Instagram @nancyakerrigan.