The Triple-Axel Face-Off: Historic Olympians Tonya Harding & Mirai Nagasu Will Compete on DWTS

Dancing with the Stars‘ all-athletes season will see a face-off between two history-making Olympic figure skaters, Tonya Harding and Mirai Nagasu, who made international headlines with their triple axel jumps nearly three decades apart.

In 1991, Harding became the first American woman — and the second female figure skater in the world, ever — to land the notoriously tricky jump, which requires an extra half-rotation in the air.

“It was the best,” Harding said shortly afterward, according to The New York Times. “It made it so easy for me the rest of the program. Knowing I’m the first American woman to do it is overwhelming.”

(Her athletic reputation would quickly fade, however, with two successively weaker Olympic appearances and then the scandal around the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan.)

More than a decade after Harding’s triple axel, U.S. skater Kimmie Meissner completed one during the national championships in 2005.

Finally, Nagasu joined their elite ranks in February, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, with a resounding triple axel in the figure skating team event that helped earn America a bronze medal.

Unlike the skaters before her, Nagasu landed her jump at the Olympics — the first U.S. woman ever to do so.

• 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.

“It’s a lot of pressure and stress to come out here, and it was my goal and my dream to be here and to be selected to the Olympic team,” Nagasu told PEOPLE minutes after her feat. “So I knew going into it the amount of responsibility that I was given.”

Now the 24-year-old Nagasu will compete on ABC’s dance reality series later this month against Harding, 47, and eight other athletes (all of whom are paired with professional dancers).

It appears Harding has not yet publicly commented on Nagasu’s skating prowess, but Nagasu — like basically every other figure skater since the ’90s — has talked about Harding, whose addition to this season of DWTS has already proved controversial to some.

“It was an unfortunate series of events, but I think she’s made the most of it and she’s like the perfect example of the comeback kid,” Nagasu told PEOPLE last year, after Harding returned to the spotlight thanks to the Oscar-winning biopic I, Tonya. “There are so many outlooks on life and she gets up and keeps going.”

RELATED VIDEO: Figure Skaters Discuss Tonya Harding and I, Tonya

“I was young , but now I’m like, ‘Oooh all that drama with Tonya Harding,’ ” Nagasu said in the fall. “I’m really excited to see her movie, because who doesn’t want to get a look into her life?”

Sure enough, Nagasu did see I, Tonya, which she told PEOPLE in March she found “really relatable,” though she knows it took some factual liberties in the name of storytelling.

Nagasu said she was particularly struck by Allison Janney’s performance as Harding’s mother, LaVona, which earned her an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

Nagasu said, “I was excited … because I was like, ‘Oh my God, figure skating is on the radar.’ “

PEOPLE.com

Arrow
Arrow
Slider