Tonya Harding said she was “perfectly fine” with the inevitable comparisons to Nancy Kerrigan before “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” started, so now that it’s over, let’s do just that! Who did you prefer on the show?
If we’re just talking empirical data, Harding obviously did better than Kerrigan. She made the final, got a perfect score of 30 for her freestyle and finished tied in second with Josh Norman, behind champ Adam Rippon. Kerrigan, who competed on Season 24 last spring, finished tied in sixth with Nick Viall and her highest score was a 36 (out of 40) for her “Enchanted” jazz.
Known for her athleticism as a skater, Harding was unsure herself if she’d be graceful on the hardwood, but she exceeded everyone’s expectations with her first dance and continued to improve every week. Her freestyle was a joyful cap to her whole run. As we’ve previously mentioned, Harding’s best asset is her ability to sell a routine; she gets completely into the dance and the performance, which goes a long way in pulling the audience in.
Kerrigan was also a fantastic dancer, as many predicted — her samba was a standout — but compared to Harding, she didn’t quite lose herself in routines like her old rival did. Plus, maybe those high expectations led to the judges being harder on her; she got lowballed some weeks. Still, she had the fifth highest average score of the season. The Olympic silver and bronze medalist had a lot of untapped potential, but unfortunately the fan votes weren’t there to bring her further.
Of course, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison since Kerrigan was on a regular season and Harding’s lasted only four weeks. Would Harding have made the final in a 10-week season? Could Kerrigan have survived double and triple eliminations to make the final herself? We’ll never know. The only solution is for them to be on an all-stars season together, which will never happen.