Tonya Harding would probably tell you herself she’s the underdog in the “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” final three. No one, not even she, thought she’d get this far. Our odds have her finishing in third, behind Josh Norman and frontrunner Adam Rippon, which would be a very good and respectable placement for someone many thought would and wanted to get the boot in the first episode. But could she actually go even further and claim the Mirrorball trophy? “Dancing” history shows that, more often than not, the final two tends to be a his-and-her battle.
In the show’s previous 25 seasons, 17 final twos have come down to a female and a male celebrity. The longest streak was eight seasons, from Season 5 through 12. Of these 17, the woman prevailed 10 times. While each season is a very specific case, this data isn’t that shocking; female dancers — whether the pro or the celebrity — are usually the “star” or focus of a routine and get flashier moves. The male dancers are mostly there to anchor them. It’s like lifts and throw jumps in pairs figure skating and ice dancing, with the male showing off the female.
Same-sex final twos are very rare on “Dancing.” There have been five all-male showdowns, the first being Season 2’s Drew Lachey and Jerry Rice battle. The most recent instance was in Season 24, between Rashad Jennings and David Ross. There have only been three all-female final two duels, the first of which didn’t occur until Season 15, with Melissa Rycroft and Shawn Johnson. The most recent one was when Meryl Davis defeated Amy Purdy in Season 18.
This bodes well for Harding, but obviously we can’t just pencil her into the final two on account of being a woman. “Dancing” doesn’t take place in a vacuum, but she still has a lot of pros in her column that could help her take down Norman (let’s face it, Rippon is a mortal lock) for a final two spot. She has natural dance ability and has picked up — and sold — routines with aplomb and a redemption story that “Dancing” and viewers are suckers for. Even if she doesn’t win, she has the kind of plucky underdog arc that has carried people to the final two, a la Ross, Kirstie Alley and Rob Karsashian.
See the breakdown of genders in the “Dancing” final twos below. (Winner is listed first.)
Male and female — 17
Kelly Monaco and John O’Hurley (Season 1)
Helio Castroneves and Mel B (Season 5)
Kristi Yamaguchi and Jason Taylor (Season 6)
Brooke Burke and Warren Sapp (Season 7)
Shawn Johnson and Gilles Marini (Season 8)
Donny Osmond and Mya (Season 9)
Nicole Scherzinger and Evan Lysacek (Season 10)
Jennifer Grey and Kyle Massey (Season 11)
Hines Ward and Kirstie Alley (Season 12)
Donald Driver and Katherine Jenkins (Season 14)
Amber Riley and Corbin Bleu (Season 17)
Alfonso Ribeiro and Sadie Robertson (Season 19)
Rumer Willis and Riker Lynch (Season 20)
Bindi Irwin and Nick Carter (Season 21)
Nyle DiMarco and Paige VanZant (Season 22)
Laurie Hernandez and James Hinchcliffe (Season 23)
Jordan Fisher and Lindsey Stirling (Season 25)
All-male — 5
Drew Lachey and Jerry Rice (Season 2)
Emmitt Smith and Mario Lopez (Season 3)
Apolo Anton Ohno and Joey Fatone (Season 4)
J.R. Martinez and Rob Kardashian (Season 13)
Rashad Jennings and David Ross (24)
All-female — 3
Melissa Rycroft and Shawn Johnson (Season 15)
Kellie Pickler and Zendaya (Season 16)
Meryl Davis and Amy Purdy (Season 18)
“Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
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