Figure skater Adam Rippon stole America's hearts during the 2018 Winter Olympics both for his stellar performances on the ice (which snagged him a bronze medal) and his advocacy of LGBTQ rights. Rippon is the first openly gay American athlete to win a medal in the winter olympics, and he wasn't shy about sharing his thoughts with Vice President Mike Pence, who he rejected a meeting with while the competition was underway. Now, Rippon will be back on our TV screens once again, this time as a cast-member of ABC's Dancing with the Stars: Athletes. The new season will also feature a slightly more controversial figure skater: former U.S. Champion Tonya Harding, who was the subject of the recent Oscar-winning biopic I, Tonya (starring Margot Robbie).
The new season's lineup was announced on Good Morning America! It includes:
- Adam Rippon with Jenna Johnson
- Arike Ogunbowale with Gleb Savchenko
- Chris Mazdzer with Witney Carson
- Jamie Anderson with Artem Chigvintsev
- Jennie Finch Daigle with Keo Motsepe
- Johnny Damon with Emma Slater
- Josh Norman with Sharna Burgess
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Lindsay Arnold
- Mirai Nagasu with Alan Bersten
- Tonya Harding with Sasha Farber
Basketball fans might also recognize one of the contestants...
Tonya Harding's casting on DWTS has caused a minor uproar on Twitter.
Harding was permanently banned from U.S. figure skating in 1994 in what was described by The New York Times as "one of the biggest scandals in American sports history." Leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Harding's husband hired a hitman to break Nancy Kerrigan's leg since Kerrigan was his wife's most prominent competition. Though she didn't have a direct part in the crime itself, Harding ended up pleading guilty to "conspiring to hinder prosecution of the attackers."
The United States Figure Skating Association held their own investigation, however, and believed Harding knew about the attack before it took place. The claimed she showed "a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship, and ethical behavior," resulting in a lifelong ban from USFSA events. In later years, she became a professional boxer, though she competed in only 6 matches before retiring due to a physical condition caused by her asthma.
Even the most skeptical reality TV viewers are excited Rippon will be back on the TV!
In a press release from ABC, Rippon was described as "one of the most dramatic figure skaters on the planet" and "an icon to millions."
But while Rippon is a new face in the public zeitgeist, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been a superstar for years.
Abdul-Jabbar is a 6-time NBA Most Valuable Player (that's a record), a 19-time NBA All-Star (that's a record too), and was on no less than 6 NBA Championship teams. There are some who even describe him as the greatest basketball player of all time. At 70 years old, he'll be one of the season's older contestants, but a true competitive spirit knows no age.