Tonya Harding Says Americans Have 'Proven They Love' Her After Advancing to 'DWTS' Finale

Americans proved they loved Tonya Harding—at least, that’s what the former ice skater claimed. After advancing to the Dancing with the Stars finale, following her Monday night performance with partner Sasha Faber, Harding was overwhelmed by the newfound support she had from viewers.

“I thought they were going to tell us, ‘You’re going home,’ and I was going, “Oh God, please.’ I literally was praying. And then I was like, ‘What, what’d you say?’ And he’s jumping up and down and I’m going, ‘Oh, my God, we made it,’” Harding explained to the press, following an elimination round that sent home three competitors: Olympic luger Chris Mazdzer, retired Olympic softball player Jennie Finch Daigle and Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu.

Harding and Farber’s’ rumba performance landed the duo a 33 + 2 score.

Since joining DWTS, fans have been receptive, and seemingly forgiving, of Harding's past controversies. The former skater viewed their acceptance of her as a second chance. "I think America has proven that they love me and they wanted to know what happened and now they know. It's really amazing," she said.

"[I'm] feeling like America has opened their arms to me and understands me better now and so, I'm just another person,” she continued. “I've been knocked down and now I've been picked back up and because of America voting for us, we made it to the finals."

For the last 24 years, Harding, the first American woman to land a triple axel in competition, had been considered an Olympic outcast due to her involvement in the 1994 attack on fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Despite pleading her innocence at the time of the controversy, Harding was banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association after it was discovered Harding's ex-husband colluded with his buddies to plot an attack on Kerrigan, where she was clubbed in the knee just a few weeks before the ’94 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

In addition to being stripped of all her titles, Harding pleaded guilty on felony charges of conspiracy to hinder the prosecution and was forced to serve three years on probation, 500 hours of community service and pay a $160,000 fine.

Following all the media scrutiny over the attack, Harding spent the latter portion of her life out of the spotlight, only briefly returning for a minor stint on Celebrity Boxing in 2002. But the 2018 release of a satirical biopic, I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie as Harding, thrust the former skater back into the public eye—this time in a more empathetic way.

Of course, not all DWTS fans were happy to see Harding make it to the final round. Fellow contestant and Olympic skater Adam Rippon, who also advanced to the finals, previously condemned Harding in the media, recently telling USA Today that it was “important to remember that skating wasn’t taken away from her—she was banned because she was part of a bad thing.”

Dozens of fans took to Twitter on Monday, seemingly in agreement with Rippon, pointing out Harding’s past shouldn’t be overlooked just because time has gone by.

Check out some of the mixed reactions to Harding’s advance to the finals below:

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