Oksana was an interesting case because of her double layers of deprivation. She wasn't just from a broken (vanished!) family but from a newly poor country. I think 1994 was the first time the Ukraine entered a national team. Didn't Petrenko compete for the CIS in 1992, with the Olympic flag raised at all medal ceremonies involving formerly Soviet skaters? But by 1994, no more Soviet sports system to protect and nurture Ukraine-based skaters. Thank God for Oksana's benefactors, the remarkable Petrenko and Smievskaya, his mother-in-law. What little they had at that time they shared with Oksana. It's too bad she wasn't able to sustain her self-discipline in the years following the Olympics, but as you say, the gold got her out of a dire situation, and eventually she straightened herself out.
If I recall correctly, Carol Heiss was working class, and her rise to the top of skating was considered extra significant for that reason. I don't think she had the dysfunctional family that Tonya or Nicole Bobek had, though.
What is sad is that Oksana was getting so rich and her enablers were telling her she was the best. So she didnt"care about her jumps." She was sweet girl to Diva very fast! Well, she was special in some ways. I'll never forget watching her swan sp. It was so completely captivating. She took my heart with that skate.
Sad indeed but she is relatively okay through it all. Still, I miss the "real" Baiul. She seems so different and had she had some more grounding who knows. We take what we have and we are responsible for our gifts and lack of gifts. Like Whitney Houston once sang - Didn't we almost have it all...
I always thought the problem was Jeff Gilooly more than Mrs. Harding (or whatever her name was by then--she was married quite a few times). Remember, by the time she was prominent, Tonya was a married woman. She wasn't living with her parents anymore. Tonya said years later that he abused her. True? Probably, although there may be some hyperbole as to the extent of it. I always thought she was afraid of him or afraid of outshining him. Remember, she was very briefly Tonya Gillooly (1992 Worlds, I think)?
I think she is a tragic figure. Yes, she didn't reach her potential because of weight issues and training issues. This is fairly common--remember Mirai and Caroline? She's not naturally skinny and she did have bad asthma (made worse by smoking--her own fault, 100%), so maybe she wouldn't have done as well as skinny, healthy-lunged Kristi or Nancy no matter what. But it's the crime that makes her truly stand out as infamous. And I put 95% of that on her ex-husband. She covered for him because she loved him or was afraid of him. But I never thought that she was evil or bad.