‘DWTS’ Winner Adam Rippon ‘Didn’t Know What To Expect’ Competing Against Tonya Harding

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Although being familiar with each other, Adam Rippon and fellow ice skater Tonya Harding had never met before competing against one another on Dancing with the Stars: Athletes, on which Adam was crowned the show’s first champion.

In speaking with PEOPLE Now (via MSN), Adam said he “didn’t really know what to expect, because my only prior knowledge of Tonya is never meeting her and just knowing that she was banned from skating. You know, my whole world is skating so we’ve never interacted before.”

In 1994, Harding was banned from competitive skating by the United States Figure Skating Association after having pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution after an attack on her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan.

Despite these allegations, Adam, 28, said he can only recall having positive encounters since meeting Tonya, 47. He went on to speak about how it was always a pleasure to run into her in the studio and how the two would then chat and that he would not have had any reason to believe anything negative about the famed ice skater. Adam then explained how glad he is that Tonya is competing and doing something positive for herself, adding that everybody deserves a “second chance”.

Although Adam made it well known that DWTS: Athletes was a great experience for him overall, he does have one regret, telling PEOPLE, “The one thing about everyone at the show, everybody was so nice. The one thing that I really wish was that I could’ve had a week to experience the whole week of rehearsals with everybody,”

Dancing With the Stars Athletes Finale
Featured image credit: Craig SjodinABC

Adam participated in the cross-country Stars On Ice tour, which has a demanding schedule that inhibited his ability to truly devote time to fully contributing to the show, only delegating time when needed for practice and then the actual performances on DWTS: Athletes.

During Monday’s finale, Rippon admitted that, after coming this far, winning the title means much more to him than just simply the position’s title.

Although Rippon received a perfect score, followed by a standing ovation, for his jazz routine during his first dance, he received mixed responses to his freestyle-dance over Pitbull and DJ Kass’ remix, “Scooby Doo Pa Pa.” Despite having earned him the lesser score, Adam maintained that the dance was an interpretation of him as a person, and he attempted to reflect his personality in those moves.

The 27th season of Dancing With The Stars will air this Fall on ABC.