The 'Dancing With The Stars: Athletes' Cast List Has A Controversial Name Right At The Top
The Winter Olympics may not come around for another four years, but that doesn't mean the excitement of competition is behind you. The full Dancing with the Stars: Athletes cast list was announced on Friday, and it has two very exciting names right at the top. That's Tonya Harding and Adam Rippon, and their participation is drawing more attention than the rest of the 10-person list combined.
For as different as they are, the two athletes actually have a lot in common. They're both Olympic figure skaters who have seen their profiles rise significantly in the past six months, and neither name is completely out of left field. (Us Weekly had sparked rumors of Harding and Rippon's participation in Season 26 a few days prior to the announcement.) The difference comes not only in the age gap between the two skaters, but also in their public perception.
Twenty-eight-year-old Rippon is coming off of a debut performance at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, where he came away with a bronze medal in the team event and a sterling reputation. Even though he failed to medal as an individual, the openly gay skater won America's hearts with his unflinching honesty and hilarious tweets, and had everyone rooting for him. "Adam Rippon will not medal, but it's safe to say he's the winner of the Olympics," tweeted one fan, a sentiment that seems to be echoed across the internet. And since as recently as March, Rippon told People Now, that he would "love to" join DWTS, and that he thought the opportunity "would be fun," it's hardly a surprise to see his name in the cast list for this cycle.
The 47-year-old Harding, on the other hand, has had almost the opposite reception, and is seeing a resurgence now for a very different reason. She skated in both the 1992 and 1994 Winter Games, but failed to medal, and all the impressive milestones in her career were quickly overshadowed by her alleged connection to the attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. (Harding has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the attack for years.) Regardless, the incident led to the figure skater's permanent banning from the sport later in 1994, and has made her the recipient of criticism and verbal abuse for decades.
It was only with the release of the 2017 Oscar-nominee I, Tonya that public perception began to show any signs of movement. The film introduced the idea there might be multiple ways to view the same event, and opened the door for Harding to be viewed in a way that didn't dismiss her as either a villain or the butt of a joke. Her involvement in DWTS: Athletes could be just the next step in that process, of society learning to view her in a more layered and empathetic way, through all the shades of gray that entails.
In any case, both athletes will premiere in the shortened, four-week cycle on April 30, alongside the rest of the cast. Here's the full list of athletic powerhouses who will be turning up to show their stuff in an entirely new arena.
1. Tonya Harding
The controversial skater will be returning to competition opposite professional dancer Sasha Farber.
2. Adam Rippon
The bronze medalist and razor-sharp witticist will be partnered with Jenna Johnson.
3. Mirai Nagasu
The third American Olympic figure skater has medaled heavily in other competitions and will be paired with Alan Bersten
4. Jamie Anderson
The Olympic snowboarder has won gold in the Slopestyle at both the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, and will be paired with Artem Chigvintsev.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The legendary basketball player and six-time MVP will be facing down the competition with Lindsay Arnold.
6. Arike Ogunbowale
The Notre Dame junior has twice sunk game-winning shots in the NCAA Final Four that have taken her to the cover of Sports Illustrated, and now to DWTS, where she'll be dancing with Gleb Savchenko.
7. Chris Mazdzer
The luger has attended three Olympic Games and came away from PyeongChang with a silver, and has been matched up with Witney Carson.
8. Jennie Finch Daigle
TIME described her as the most famous softball player in history, and when it was still an Olympic sport (it was removed for 2012 and 2016 but will be re-added for 2020), pitcher Jennie Finch Daigle was its star, leading her team to a gold medal in 2004 and a silver in 2008. She'll dance with Keo Motsepe.
9. Johnny Damon
The former New York Yankee made history by stealing two bases during one play, helping his team clinch the 2009 World Series, and he'll be trying to steal the show this time around with DWTS pro Emma Slater.
10. Josh Norman
The Redskins cornerback will be paired with Sharna Burgess this season.
It's quite a varied group that will be taking the stage come the end of April, and it remains to be seen exactly who will stand out — and for what reasons.