Tonya Harding has danced her way one step closer to the mirrorball trophy. The 47-year-old former Olympic figure skater, who made headlines in 1994 for the Nancy Kerrigan knee-clubbing scandal, has advanced to the finals on Dancing With the Stars: Athletes. Harding and her pro partner, Sasha Farber, survived a triple elimination on the ABC celebrity ballroom competition, beating out current Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu, softball player Jennie Finch-Daigle, and Olympic luger Chris Mazdzer in the semi-finals round.
Now, Tonya Harding will face her biggest Dancing With the Stars challenge yet as she competes against fellow Olympic ice skater Adam Rippon and NFL player Josh Norman for the show’s mirrorball trophy. But it’s clear that Tonya already feels like a winner.
After Monday’s triple elimination, Harding told reporters she believes America has had a change of heart about her. According to Fox News, Tonya said the following.
“I think America has proven that they love me and they wanted to know what happened and now they know. It’s really amazing. [I’m] feeling like America has opened their arms to me and understands me better now and so, I’m just another person. I’ve been knocked down and now I’ve been picked back up and because of America voting for us, we made it to the finals.”
Tonya Harding revealed she never dreamed she would make it this far in the four-week competition, which originally featured 10 world class athletes in Dancing With the Stars’ first-ever themed season.Tonya admitted she was surprised to make it to the finale of the abbreviated all-athletes season of DWTS, but she said her successful semi-finals status is “like seeing the lights again” after her cut-short skating career.
After the Kerrigan scandal, Tonya was banned for life from the sport by the U.S. Figure Skating Association, so she truly looks at Dancing With the Stars as her second chance.
“I’ve always loved performing for the people,” Harding said. “I never got a chance to do that, that’s when I got this call to do Dancing With the Stars it opened my heart again and putting my heart on my arm and letting people see me, it’s really hard.”
Tonya’s partner, Sasha Farber, has defended ABC’s decision to cast her on Dancing with the Stars: Athletes. Last month, Farber posted to Instagram to address the controversy over Harding’s casting, reminding fans that “humans have the ability to change” and that no one should 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,” the Dancing With the Stars pro dancer wrote. “I really respect Tonya for doing the show and I’m proud to be her partner.”
After Tonya Harding made it to the Dancing With the Stars finals, Sasha Farber posted a video of the duo thanking fans for their support.
“Tonya, you really do deserve this, I’m so proud of you. I hope you feel the love,” Farber wrote. You can see the video below.
The Dancing With the Stars: Athletes finale airs Monday, May 21, on ABC.