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HOME > Dancing with the Stars > Dancing with the Stars: Athletes

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'Dancing with the Stars' pro Sasha Farber: Tonya Harding is a role model


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/09/2018 

Dancing with the Stars: Athletes pro Sasha Farber couldn't be more pleased with his celebrity partner, disgraced former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding.

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"Tonya has suffered and been through a lot. She's so happy and excited to be here. This competition means the world to her because it's like her last hurrah. By that, I mean there are so many things opening up for her," Sasha wrote in his blog for Us Weekly.

Tonya has made headlines in recent months thanks to the release of the I, Tonya film, which depicts the 1994 incident in which an assailant hired by her ex-husband and bodyguard attacked Tonya's skating rival Nancy Kerrigan ahead of the Winter Olympics that year.

RELATED LINK: 'DANCING WITH THE STARS' PROS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANT OTHERS: WHO'S DATING OR MARRIED TO WHOM!? (PHOTOS)

"Since the movie, Tonya's name has become a household one again and there are negative comments out there. You're always going to get that, but she's such a strong [woman] and a role model because she gets so much criticism and she comes back harder and harder each time," Sasha wrote.

"That's why I love working with her and teaching her each week... She's also been very vocal in her appreciation of me. We definitely have an amazing relationship."

After Tonya performed for the first time on Dancing with the Stars: Athletes, she received a warm and welcoming standing ovation from the ballroom audience, which brought her to tears.

During the first two weeks of competition, Tonya and Sasha have also managed to finish in the top half of the Dancing with the Stars' leaderboard based on the judges' scores.

"She's a hard worker. In the short amount of time we've been together, I know what it takes for her to be the best she can be," Sasha explained.

"She's a very good listener. She believes in a coach. She trusts me and says, 'Whatever Sasha says, we'll do.' I'm grateful to have such an amazing partner. That's what it's all about."

So far on the show, the celebrity and professional pairing has danced the foxtrot and quickstep onstage. And for Week 2, Tonya was thrilled to have her son sitting in the crowd, watching her perform.

"[Tonya] told me she's received death threats (over the years) and so she wants to keep her family out of the limelight. Her family means so much to her. Her son is what changed everything for her. He gave her the power to live and move on," Sasha revealed.

"For her son to see his mom performing live on TV was amazing. He wasn't born yet when she was skating so he couldn't see that live. She didn't want him to miss the chance to see that. He said he was so proud of her. It was beautiful to see."

Next week, Sasha admitted he is going to "push Tonya to her limits."

"What's so rewarding for me is seeing the joy she experiences when she performs. This is another chance for her -- except it's not on the ice. Tonya has a second chance now," the pro dancer acknowledged.

"I'm looking for her to feel the joy a person can have when you get to finish something that you thought at one point you'd never get to do."

RELATED LINK: 'DANCING WITH THE STARS' PROS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANT OTHERS: WHO'S DATING OR MARRIED TO WHOM!? (PHOTOS)

Dancing with the Stars: Athletes currently airs on Monday nights and has six celebrities left in the running for the Season 26 mirrorball trophy.

Tonya's remaining opponents are Olympic luger Chris Mazdzer, NFL star Josh Norman, Olympic figure skaters Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu, and Olympic softball player Jennie Finch.



Sasha Farber/Instagram

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