Tonya Harding Talks DWTS: 'I'm Glad My Son Will Grow Up Knowing His Mommy Is Not a Cheater'
"I'm not here to prove anything to anyone except myself," Tonya Harding tells PEOPLE
The former figure-skating Olympian was announced Friday as one of 10 athletes who will compete on the reality dance competition’s Athletes edition, premiering at the end of April.
While controversy follows Harding onto the ABC series, she isn’t concerned about viewers’ opinions.
“I’m not here to prove anything to anyone except myself,” Harding, 47, told PEOPLE after the cast reveal.
Controversy around Harding began in 1994. Seven weeks before the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, Harding’s skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan — who competed on season 24 of DWTS — was clubbed on the knee by an assailant. A man later identified as Shane Stant struck Kerrigan in the knee with a baton after she walked off the ice in January of that year, during practice for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Though she was injured and briefly withdrew from competition to recuperate, Kerrigan was well enough to compete in the Olympics, where she earned a silver medal in women’s singles while Harding came in eighth.
WATCH: Tonya Harding, Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Join Dancing with the Stars: Athletes
- Want to keep up on the latest from PEOPLE? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get our best stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox.
The attack was arranged by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, along with Brian Sean Griffith (then named Shawn Eckardt) and his friend Derrick Smith, who drove the getaway car. Gillooly and Eckhart pleaded guilty to racketeering for their involvement in the incident. Gillooly was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of $100,000. Eckardt, Stant and Smith were sentenced to 18 months each in prison with no fines.
Harding denied having any involvement in the attack but pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution. She had to pay a $160,000 fine and was sentenced to three years’ probation and 500 hours community service. In addition, she was banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
“I’m just really glad that my son will grow up knowing that his mommy was not a cheater,” Harding told PEOPLE about her only child.
While some DWTS fans are uncertain about her being cast on the show — many took to Twitter after the cast reveal to express their anger — she’s excited about the four-week challenge.
“This is such an honor to be part of something that is so special,” said Harding, who is paired with pro dancer Sasha Farber. “Sasha’s going to teach me actually how to dance the proper way and we are going to bring it!”
Harding’s rep, Linda Lewis, also tells PEOPLE that the former athlete is “is very excited” about DWTS and “was so honored and happy to be invited to be on the show and she’s very excited. She loves it.”
“She really enjoys working with her new partner, Sasha, and he’s been gracious and patient with her. Having been an ice skater, positions of her feet and everything she told me, it’s totally different,” says Lewis. “But she’ll catch on. She’s been doing this since she was 3 years old as far as being in public.”
Season 26 of Dancing with the Stars premieres April 30 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
- Reporting by ADAM CARLSON
- Filmore and Paige Korte Are Married! All the Details from Their 'Intimate' Barefoot Beach Wedding
- Garth Brooks Talks About the Future After Stadium Tour: 'The Things I Really Love That I Get to Do'
- Sarah Hyland Says She and Fiancé Wells Adams Celebrated Their 3rd Anniversary by Voting
- Rande Gerber Talks Halloween Traditions with Cindy Crawford — and How They're Safely Celebrating