We warned you: Stop underestimating Tonya Harding. The two-time Olympian made it to the “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” final over the widely expected Mirai Nagasu and she gives all the credit to fans for embracing her again.
“I truly love America. I love Americans,” Harding tells “Entertainment Tonight.” “I mean, we all want to see the underdog come up and do great. I think that America really sees me as the true person and, you know, a person who has a heart, a person who has a soul, and maybe, you know, who’s been through enough and is giving me another chance and I just want to thank you so much.”
The figure skater’s casting was met with lots of outrage, with many viewers feeling that the disgraced athlete shouldn’t get a comeback platform because of the 1994 attack on her rival (and “Dancing” alum) Nancy Kerrigan, which was orchestrated by Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckhardt. Harding was later banned from figure skating after pleading guilty to hindering the prosecution.
But before that, she competed at the Lillehammer Olympics, where she finished eighth after an infamous ordeal with her skate laces, which was dramatized in “I, Tonya.” Harding says the reception she’s gotten while she’s been on “Dancing” is the polar opposite of the one she received at the biggest sporting event in the world.
“This is like being treated with respect that I didn’t get when I went to the Olympics,” she says. “Everyone thinking that I was horrible and now everyone realizing that I’m just a normal person and that I go through a lot of things that other people have to go through. And people can relate to that. Don’t give up. Go for your dreams. Go for everything.”
Her partner, Sasha Farber, also revealed that Harding’s goal was to make the final. And now that she has, how about that Mirrorball? “I mean, I keep telling her everyday she’s on the right track. She’s on the right track,” he said. “I’m so proud of her.”
“Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
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