For Tonya Harding, Dancing With the Stars is more than just a reality dance competition. It's a way to reclaim who she is.
The former Olympic figure skater broke down during the premiere of the all-athletes season Monday while opening up about returning to the stage.
"I was the best figure skater in the world and then I had it taken away from me," she said, breaking down in tears. "And it wasn't just my career. It was my life."
She was, of course, referencing the infamous 1994 attack on Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan (who competed on season 24 of Dancing With the Stars), where she was clubbed on the knee by an attacker during practice for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
It was soon determined that the attack was arranged by Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, along with Shawn Eckardt and his friend Derrick Smith, who drove the getaway car. Gillooly and Eckhart pleaded guilty to racketeering for their involvement in the attack.
Harding, 47, denied having any involvement or knowledge of the attack, but pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution. She was required to pay a $160,000 fine and was sentenced to three years’ probation and 500 hours community service. She was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
She never imagined she would return to the stage, but couldn't wait to perform once again, Harding said on the premiere.
"I got banned in '94 from skating, but nobody can tell me I can't dance," she said. "I want people to see that I deserve to be here. I don't want to fail again."
And it appears that Harding could be in it to win it, with the judges praising her foxtrot with partner Sasha Farber.
But others couldn't get past her past.
aw tonya's crying
the poor thing..
it's as if her leg was broken and almost ruined her career :(#dwts— carloop wants mirai & alan to win (@crikeystarkss) May 1, 2018
Honestly if Tonya Harding isn’t out within the first three weeks, I refuse to watch the rest of this season of #dwts.— Sarah (@SarahMRosario) May 1, 2018
I don’t care how you feel about Tonya, that dance was not as good as Mirai. They did not deserve the same score. This show makes no sense. I swear this is just a popularity contest. #DWTS— Scott Bennett (@FilmScoreScott) May 1, 2018
Tonya Harding playing the victim is ridiculous! It wasn't "taken away from her". #dwts— MaryLacroix (@MaryGL7781) May 1, 2018
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Photo credit: ABC