Sasha Farber: Why Can’t the Skating World Give Tonya Harding a Second Chance?

Sasha Farber Tonya Harding Dancing With the Stars Athletes
Sasha Farber and Tonya Harding on ‘Dancing With the Stars: Athletes.’ ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Dancing With the Stars pro Sasha Farber is blogging exclusively with Us Weekly about his quest to take home the season 26 mirrorball trophy with partner Tonya Harding. Check back each week for his latest update on the competition.

It felt awesome when Tonya and I learned we were going to the finals! I honestly thought they were going to say we were going home. I’ve waited for this for so long and I had no idea it was going to happen. On Monday’s show, we did a video package on Tonya’s [late] father and how important and valuable he was to her. I wanted to create a dance for her to give her another opportunity to be with him again. His passing was so sudden she never got a chance to say goodbye. People have said the video package shown before the dance is just as important as the dance itself is in helping the audience connect to the celebrity. I think that’s true, especially on a short season like this one.

I feel like Tonya’s been through a lot in her life and she really deserves this second chance and that’s what this competition is for her. As a pro dancer on the show it’s not only my job to help her through this, but it’s something I want to do. I want to comfort her. I get very protective [of the celebrities I’m paired with]. Tonya doesn’t really see all the hateful comments that are out there. I try to block them out. It affects me when I read what people are posting because I see her in a positive light. And if I can, then maybe everyone can? That’s why this competition has been so great.

I’ve seen opinions change about Tonya and that’s been terrific. We wouldn’t be in the finals if America was not supporting her. And we’re working very hard this week. I’m super-excited about the dances for the finale. I think, personally, that this competition may mean more to Tonya [than it may to the other finalists]. Adam [Rippon] is this amazing Olympian and Joshua [Norman] has this amazing football career going on. Tonya is someone who had something taken from her. Her being in the finals gives her the chance to finish something that she started. People have forgotten what an incredible skater she is, but they’re being reminded of what a great performer she is.

We have two dances next week – one is about her journey and one will be the freestyle. I can’t give a lot of details away about our freestyle theme for the finale, but it’s going to be very special. I got started on it right after we learned we were going to the finals. I had a chat with Tonya about what I wanted to do. She has something in her heart that’s been roaring to come out and I’m going to give her the chance to do that in the finale on Monday.

Tonya Harding World Figure Skating Championships 1991 Munich
Tonya Harding during the World Figure Skating Championships in Munich, Germany in March 1991. Bob Martin/ALLSPORT via Getty Images

I have to say I didn’t have any [pre-conceived] thoughts about Tonya before we met. I wanted to come into our partnership with an open mind. I didn’t want to listen to any stories or backlash. I wanted to find out for myself what I thought of Tonya. It frustrates me when people say negative things [about her].

I’m very grateful to everyone who supported us and voted us through to the finals. What I hope people walk away with after the show is over next week is that they see a different side to Tonya. We had a rehearsal and all we did was laugh the whole time. Tonya put figure-skating on the map, and I think people forget just how amazing she is. Working with her, I realize now what a sweet person she is. America is really giving her a second chance. If America can, why can’t the skating world give her that same second chance?

Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.

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