Sasha Farber Defends Tonya Harding’s Casting On ‘Dancing With The Stars: Athletes’

The former Olympic skater is one of the most controversial contestants ever cast on the ABC celebrity ballroom competition.

Craig SjodinABC

Tonya Harding knows her past will be a big part of her Dancing with the Stars future. Two decades after her involvement in one of the biggest scandals in Olympics history, the 47-year-old former U.S. figure skater will have a hard time living down her reputation as she competes on the all-athletes edition of the ABC celebrity ballroom competition.

In 1994, Harding made headlines after her then-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Harding was later put on probation, fined, and banned for life from “sanctioned” events by the U.S. Figure Skating Figure Skating Association for her involvement in the scandal. Now she’s headed to Dancing with the Stars: Athletes, where spray tans and sequins will once again be a part of her life.

Tonya Harding’s casting on Dancing with the Stars has been extremely controversial, but her pro partner Sasha Farber recently took to Instagram to defend ABC’s decision to include her in the 26th season of the TV dancing competition.

While Sasha admitted “there are some very strong feelings” from fans about Tonya Harding and her past, he believes people have the ability to change.

“I have only spent a couple of days with her but I have learned so much about her and I’m looking forward to learning more,” Farber wrote.

“One thought I want to throw out there is that humans have the ability to change, people have the ability to find faith and shouldn’t have to live in the unbelievably devastating shadow of a bad past, wrong decision or bad influences for the rest of their life. They should be allowed to move on and live a full life like those around them. People live and learn, people forgive and forget and most of all we change, and not only change ourselves, but also the people around us.”

While she is trying to move on from her past, Tonya Harding recently told E! News she knows she will be compared to her former skating rival Nancy Kerrigan when she competes on Dancing with the Stars: Athletes. Harding revealed that she has always wanted to compete on Dancing with the Stars, but fans of the show know that Nancy Kerrigan beat her to it. Last spring, Nancy Kerrigan competed on Season 24 of DWTS, landing in sixth place with pro partner Artem Chigvintsev.

Harding revealed she is ready for the Kerrigan references as she embarks on the four-week mini-season of the long-running TV dance-off with pro partner Sasha Farber.

“You know, I know that there’s going to be comparisons, and that’s perfectly fine,” Tonya told E! News.

While Nancy Kerrigan was her fiercest competition back in the day, Tonya Harding is much more worried about her current completion on Dancing with the Stars: Athletes. Farber’s wife, Emma Slater, is paired with MLB star Johnny Damon, so Tonya has her eye on beating them.

“I just want to go out and we will do the best that we can, and hopefully beat his wife. That’s the important part, I guess,” Harding told E!

In addition to Johnny Damon, Tonya Harding will join NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabba, NFL star Josh Norman, and fellow Olympians Mirai Nagasu, Chris Mazdzer, Jennie Finch, Jamie Anderson, and Adam Rippon for Dancing with the Stars: Athletes.

You can see Sasha Farber and Tonya Harding talking about her role on Dancing with the Stars below.

Dancing with the Stars: Athletes premieres Monday, April 30 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.