Adam Rippon & Mirai Nagasu ‘are the two to beat’ on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ but Tonya Harding is a ‘wild card’ [WATCH]

“I think Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu are the front-runners,” says Gold Derby editor Joyce Eng about the competitors who were just announced for “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes.” “If you’ve ever seen either of them skate they’re both very lyrical on the ice, and I think that will translate very well onto the floor as we’ve seen in the past with other figure skaters like Kristi Yamaguchi and ice dancer Meryl Davis.” Eng broke down the entire lineup of contestants along with fellow editor Daniel Montgomery. Watch their slugfest above.

Montgomery agrees that Rippon and Nagasu are “the two to beat” thanks to their athletic prowess, musicality, and personalities. “They’re going to be fan-favorites too, so they’re not going to struggle [for votes].” But they’re not the only figure skaters in the competition. The show also made a potentially controversial choice by picking 1991 US national champion Tonya Harding, who was the first American woman ever to land a triple axel in competition but then became infamous for her disputed involvement in an attack against her skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Eng thinks Harding is a “total wild card. She could totally surprise us and be just a great dancer.” But a lot also depends on how her personality appeals to fans voting from home who may be resistant to her given her checkered past. “It’ll be interesting to see how they talk about [the Nancy Kerrigan incident] or talk around that. Are they going to paint this as a redemptive journey for her? ‘Dancing’ loves redemption journeys.”

But both Eng and Montgomery are relieved that “DWTS” took the high road by not pairing Harding with pro dancer Artem Chigvintsev, who was Kerrigan’s partner when she competed on “DWTS” just a year ago in season 24. Reality TV often thrives on drama, but that would have been pushing it.

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