For the former ice skating champion, making it that far in the popular dance competition was a victory all in itself, and it has served as a way of whitewashing her public image since the scandal in 1994.
After competing in the all-athlete 26th season of Dancing With The Stars alongside pro dancer Sasha Farber and making it to the season’s finale, finishing in third place, the 47-year-old is thankful for the opportunity to show her lesser-known side.
Harding shared her thoughts a day before the DWTS finals in a conversation with ET Online on May 20. Dance partner Farber joined her for the interview. Read more on our Twitter account @amomama_usa
Despite the outcome of the competition, Harding feels like a winner as she received great support from the American public following more than two decades of being portrayed negatively for her infamous 1994 controversy.
After being banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association and stripped of all titles following her involvement in the assault on rival Nancy Kerrigan, Harding had to face much criticism and derision.
But things are definitively getting better for Harding, and that is more than enough reason for her to be grateful with the opportunity DWTS has given her to hold her ‘head up high.’
‘I don't have [feel] like someone's gonna come around the corner and say something to me that's negative. I know there will always be those people, but that's OK,’ Harding said.
‘I had no idea that I had it in me to get this far. It's because of America. Standing up, standing for us, standing for me it's truly an amazing journey and I just thank everybody who is voting for us,’ she shared.
For Harding, competing on Dancing With The Stars wasn't only about winning, but about redemption, something that she has been working hard to get recently. Farber has defended her right for that opportunity since the beginning.
When people started to express their disagreement about having Harding as part of the DWTS cast given her past, Farber stepped in with words of support.
‘People have the ability to find faith and shouldn’t have to live in the unbelievably devastating shadow of a bad past, wrong decision or bad influences for the rest of their life,’ Farber wrote in an Instagram post when first meeting Harding.
After teaming up with the athlete during the entire season, Farber appeared to be very proud of Harding and the faith he had in her seems to have been well-placed.
‘I think that the possibilities are endless for Tonya, she's proven herself so many times. And it's so nice to have America in her corner… she's a new ray of sunshine and she's a bright energy and I'm excited for what's to come,’ he told ET.
Harding’s participation in DWTS is part of what columnist Dan Shaughnessy from The Boston Globe called her ‘redemption tour,’ with the biopic ‘I, Tonya’ shedding new light on the incident with Harrigan.
Most recently, distributor Neon bought the rights to a 1986 documentary about Harding competing at the National Figure Skating Championships when she was 15 years old, called Sharp Edges.
According to Page Six, the student film has served as a source to many pieces about Harding, including ‘I, Tonya,’ in which Hollywood star Margot Robbie played Harding, earning her a Best Actress nomination at the 90th Academy Awards.