All-ath­lete cast takes ‘DWTS’ spin

Hard­ing, Rip­pon and Ab­dul-Jab­bar will step out for Sea­son 26 tour­ney

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Carly Mal­len­baum USA TO­DAY

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.

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