Tonya Harding has an advocate in Dancing With the Stars partner Sasha Farber.
The pro dancer gave his case for the former Olympic figure skater to be allowed to return to the ice after being banned for life following the 1994 attack on competitor Nancy Kerrigan, arranged by Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly.
"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," he wrote in a blog for Us Weekly Wednesday. "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."
Farber admits he went into his partnership with the much-maligned athlete with an open mind, despite the backlash the show received for casting her this season.
"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]," he said.
"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]," he wrote.
"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."
During the finale, Farber revealed the two will be doing a freestyle and another dance "about her journey."
"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," Farber continued.
He then advocated for the infamous figure to get another chance to do what made her a household name in the first place: "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," he wrote. "America is really giving her a second chance. If America can, why can’t the skating world give her that same second chance?"0comments
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC
Photo credit: George Pimentel / Contributor, Getty