One week after Tonya Harding was nearly eliminated on the “Dancing with the Stars” season premiere, the disgraced figure skater earned positive reviews from the judging panel … with the help of a bear.
Harding, with partner Sasha Farber, quickstepped to “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson on Monday night. Harding chopped wood. There was a campfire. A man in a bear costume leaped out of bushes.
“All we need is [Leonardo] DiCaprio, and it’s turning into ‘The Revenant'” judge Bruno Tonioli said.
Harding, 47, received straight 8s from the regular three judges, plus a nine from retired NFL running back Rashad Jennings, a past show winner making a guest judge appearance.
Harding was one of five Olympians to make the final six with two episodes left in the 10-athlete season. Harding competed at the 1992 and 1994 Olympics and then was banned from figure skating for life for her role in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
Farber chose the “Redneck Woman” performance last week because he wanted to show “the real Tonya Harding that not many people know about.”
“Redneck woman is totally me,” said Harding, who has repeated that competing on the show feels like competing on Olympic ice again. “I drive a big truck. I cut fire wood. I hunt. I fish. I’m a country girl.”
Harding could become the third figure skater to win the Mirror Ball Trophy after Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis.
Kerrigan competed on the show last spring and finished sixth.
But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.
She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.
No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.
Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.
No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.