'DWTS' Contestant Adam Rippon Slams Tonya Harding: She Was Banned From Skating for a Reason

Olympic bronze medalist Adam Rippon was 4 years old when fellow ice skater Tonya Harding was stripped of her titles and banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association in 1994. But the 28-year-old remembers why Harding—the first American woman to land the triple axel in competition—was exiled from the association.

“It was nice to see that she had a moment,” Rippon, who is competing against Harding on Season 26 of Dancing With the Stars, said of the former champion figure skater during an interview with USA Today, released Monday. “It’s also important to remember that skating wasn’t taken away from her—she was banned because she was part of a bad thing. I don’t think that we should forget that.”

Harding was famously axed from the association following the January 1994 attack on her biggest competition, American skater Nancy Kerrigan, who was clubbed in the knee just a few weeks before the women were set to compete in the winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Although they both went on to compete, Harding was later stripped of her glory after it was discovered that her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and his cronies plotted the attack on Kerrigan. Despite Harding’s claims that she wasn’t involved in the incident, she pleaded guilty on felony charges of conspiracy to hinder the prosecution and was ordered to serve three years on probation, 500 hours of community service, and pay a $160,000 fine.

Rippon’s comments come in the midst of what seems to be Harding’s redemption tour, which was sparked after 47-year-old Harding’s biopic, I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie, premiered with critical acclaim earlier this year. The movie, based on Harding’s controversial skating scandal, scored several award nominations—including an Academy Award win for Allison Janney, who portrayed Harding’s mother in the movie.It essentially thrust Harding back into the spotlight, resulting in her landing a spot on DWTS

Harding barely survived the first week, scoring a 23 out of 30 for her Foxtrot performance with partner Sasha Farber. But the former skater has said her advance to the next round of the ABC dance show was made her feel like she’s “worth something” and that she “belongs here.”

Harding may be back on center stage, but Rippon is keeping his distance. “I’ve interacted with Tonya very limitedly,” he said. “I’m not avoiding her, but I’m not not avoiding her.”

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