All-athlete cast takes ‘DWTS’ spin
Harding, Rippon and Abdul-Jabbar will step out for Season 26 tourney
Tonya Harding says there’s a good chance she’s about to cry on network TV.
No, the tears won’t have anything to do with falling during a competition, or her involvement with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan ahead of the 1994 Olympics. Harding, the figure skater recently immortalized in the biopic I, Tonya, anticipates she’ll break down while competing as one of the new contestants on Dancing With the Stars.
“It’s been a very, very long time since I had people respect me in any way, so that’s where the emotion comes in,” she says. “If I get a standing ovation or have a huge crowd that does like me, I’ll cry. Since I’ve become a mommy, I have more emotions.”
Harding, 47, teamed with dance partner Sasha Farber, is one of the 10 pairings on Season 26’s all-athlete edition of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, premiering April 30 (8 ET/PT).
Joining her is fellow Olympic skater Adam Rippon, who will be paired with ballroom pro Jenna Johnson.
“I have a few cousins, that when they found out, they literally had to hang up the phone and scream,” says the 28year-old breakout figure-skating star of the Pyeongchang Winter Games. “They were more excited (about this show) than the Olympics.”
Also competing are several other fellow Olympians: figure skater Mirai Nagasu, 24 (paired with partner Alan Bersten); luger Chris Mazdzer, 29 (with Witney Carson); snowboarder Jamie Anderson, 27 (with Artem Chigvintsev); and softball player Jennie Finch Daigle, 37 (with Keo Motsepe).
The rest of the 10 athletes have other sports backgrounds: retired NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 70 (with Lindsay Arnold); retired baseball player Johnny Damon, 44 (with Emma Slater); Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, 30 (with Sharna Burgess); and Notre Dame women’s basketball star Arike Ogunbowale, 21 (with Gleb Savchenko).
“I’m excited that it’s all athletes and I know that everybody’s gonna be bringing it,” says Rippon, who says he’s been envisioning himself on the show while watching it the past five years.
Figure skaters do well on DWTS: Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis took home mirrorball trophies in 2008 and 2014. But transitioning from the ice to the ballroom floor takes work.
“Everyone knows I wasn’t very dainty (when I skated), but I want to do the beautiful dances. Sasha has his work cut out for him,” Harding says. In her career, she spent six months pairs skating, and learned to land a throw triple salchow.
“I’ve never danced with anyone before, (but) I’m going to push myself as far as I can go,” Rippon says.
Both began rehearsing for the competition only this week, but they already know that outrageous outfits are in their future.
“Oh my God, I haven’t been in anything skimpy in a really long time. I can’t wait to lose 10 pounds,” says Harding, who made her own skating outfits growing up. “I am open to (wearing) everything as long as the hoo-hoo is covered and my boobies don’t pop out.”
Rippon promises “something that feels very me, but also pushes the limit” on the dance floor.
“On the ice, I always push myself fashion-wise,” he says. “Why would I stop here?”
Tonya Harding, left, and Adam Rippon, second from right, with their partners Sasha Farber and Jenna Johnson.