There's plenty of history that precedes Tonya Harding's path to the upcoming season of Dancing With The Stars, especially after last year's I, Tonya brought a renewed interest to the former athlete. So does Tonya Harding still ice skate?
The answer is yes — Harding told ABC News that the ice is still a place that feels like home. "I mean, this is my sanctuary, and I don’t have anything to escape from anymore, but I just love it so much," she said of the ice earlier this year. And according to the outlet, she's still coached by the same person who was her coach at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Dody Teachman.
According to Teachman, she's just as capable as she ever was. "She’s still a powerhouse. She’s doing huge doubles, and she can still spin, and, you know, we’re working on a little program for her, just so that it’s something she can come in and practice," Teachman said, according to the same ABC article. "She still loves to skate and that was something that really was in her blood." The continued interest in time on the ice comes years after a scandal that rocked the figure skating world, and landed Harding with a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
According to the New York Times, Harding's ex-husband was involved in planning an attack on her rival figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, where a hit man was hired to break her leg and take her out of the upcoming Olympic Games. The NYT reported that Gillooly was sentenced to two years in jail and handed a $100,000 fine for his role in the incident. Per People, Kerrigan's leg was only bruised and she went on to not only continue to compete, but also win a silver medal. Harding came in eighth place at the same games. Harding has continuously denied knowledge of or involvement with the attack on Kerrigan, but she was convicted of hindering the investigation and received three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $160,000 fine in addition to the lifetime ban, according to the same People report.
Per a New York Times profile of Harding from January, she seems to not care whether her infamous past still influences people today. "I love my country," she said. "If they don't love me, I don't care." When asked by Entertainment Tonight if America is ready to embrace her as some kind of heroic figure as she readies herself to take the Dancing With The Stars stage, she remained unconcerned, focusing instead on the competition ahead of her. "Does it matter [if the public accepts me]? It doesn't really matter. I'm just honored to be part of this and very humbled as well," she told the outlet.
Though skating likely never left Harding's life completely, it does appear that she recently rejuvenated her interest and passion for the sport. Despite the fact that she'll never be able to professionally skate again, or even try her hand as a coach in a competition, she said in another Entertainment Tonight interview that she couldn't stay away from it for long — she was itching to get back to it when she felt like something was missing from her life.
"I went back to skating a year ago because … there was just something missing, you know?" she told Entertainment Tonight during a Dancing With The Stars rehearsal, as she became emotional. "And obviously I have my son, and nothing is missing from that, but there was just something about me. I wanted to do more. And when I had got that call, like now, I started crying."
This season of Dancing With The Stars is an all-athlete year, and the cast of competitors also includes breakout Olympic star Adam Rippon, as well as basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar, so Harding has her work cut out for her. Hopefully, this competition features far less controversy than Harding's last.