James Hinchcliffe may have earned perfect scores and immunity going into week 8 of Dancing with the Stars, but losing his pro partner Sharna Burgess for the week due to a knee injury was a tough pill to swallow.
“It was gutting losing her,” Hinchcliffe, 29, told reporters after the show. “It was tough when that call came in.”
Pro Jenna Johnson ended up stepping in to dance with the IndyCar Series racer, and Hinchcliffe couldn’t be more grateful.
“We were fortunate that we had someone as awesome as Jenna to be able to step in and take care of me in that sense,” he said. “We had Sharna in the first couple of rehearsals and we were FaceTiming her into the ones when she was out of town. Yesterday she got back into town and whipped my ass in one of the most intense rehearsals! But it’s what we needed.”
“It just shows how dedicated she is to this,” he added. “She may have not been the one on stage with me, but this was a Sharna production through and through. It was her creative choreography, and so for Jenna and I to go out there and dance the way that we did and get the scores that we did — it was really just us trying to do her proud.”
Of his reaction when he heard the news, Hinchcliffe said he was obviously disappointed but his first thought was “making sure that [Burgess] was okay.”
“It’s not about me or the show at this point — it’s about a friend and making sure that she’s healed so she can continue to do her job,” he said. “It was accepting that it is what it is. You can worry about things, but it’s not going to help the situation. I’ve learned that time and time again in my career. So this was the hand we were dealt, and we kind of decided to make the best of it.”
Meanwhile, Burgess, 31, told reporters she’s “healing really, really quickly.”
“I will find out on Friday [if I can dance next week],” she said. “I’m going to get another MRI, get another exam and make sure that I’m clear. I don’t want to risk it too soon. For this week, I’ll still be creating, I’ll still be teaching, I’ll be in the room with James, but Jenna will be dancing for me.”
Burgess said if she finds out that she’s cleared to dance on Monday, she’ll “jump in at that point, but if for whatever reason I get told I need a few extra days, then Jenna will have to perform with him on Monday.”
As for what it was like adapting to a new partner at this point in the competition, Hinchcliffe admitted it wasn’t easy.
“I joke that I have danced my entire dancing career with just one person,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting how different it is to step in with somebody else. And it’s not just dancing, it became at a certain point of the week teaching and coaching and all the rest of it.”
“I don’t know what to do and what not to do, I don’t know what I need and what I don’t need,” he added. “That is something that Sharna has learned through working with me throughout the last two months, and Jenna is having to do this crash course. It’s a big ask for both of us, but we had a huge rock to lean on here … and we were able to put it all together.”
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.