'Dancing With the Stars: Athletes' Finale Preview -- Which Sports Star Will Win? (Exclusive)
By Angelique Jackson
After only four weeks of competition, the winner of Dancing With the Stars: Athletes will be announced in just hours! Will it be the Olympic bronze medalist figure skater Adam Rippon, all-star football player Josh Norman or former ice queen Tonya Harding that takes home the coveted mirrorball trophy?
Only ET caught up with the final three couples – minus Rippon, who was skating in his final performance in the Stars on Ice tour -- as they prepared for tonight’s finale.
"I never get to see Adam on Sundays,” pro Jenna Johnson explains to ET about her celebrity partner’s busy schedule. “I'm like, ‘See you on Monday; hopefully you remember everything!’ So it's been exhausting to say the least. I have the luxury of coming home on Saturday nights and having Sunday in my own bed. I don’t know how he's doing [all of the travel]. He's such a champion and a trouper. Never has he complained, I will let you know he has not complained once. He wants to perform for the skating fans and then perform for America, so it's been tiring."
Johnson is in the finals for her first time as a DWTS pro – joining dancers Sharna Burgess and Sasha Farber in the hunt for their first mirrorball trophy.
“It's been a long time coming, you know what I mean? I joke about doing the ugly cry on television, but I think it's a reality and it's, like, validation for seven years of working your butt off to give people this journey and it means that I finally got it right,” Burgess admits about what it would mean to win. “Up until this point I don’t feel like I've done my job right and it won’t be until I get [a mirrorball trophy] and win one for my partner that I'll actually feel like I did.”
The couples will perform two dances on tonight’s finale – a competitive number and the always-entertaining freestyle dance. So what’s the game plan for these pros to lead their partners to a win?
Farber says he specifically chose two songs to represent Harding’s journey – “The Time of My Life” by David Cook for a Viennese Waltz and “I Will Survive” by The Pussycat Dolls for the freestyle – choosing the latter because of a trip the pair took to a karaoke bar and calling the former figure skater “a survivor."
“I want her to stand there on the edge of the stage before the music starts and just take a deep breath and absorb it all in and have a beautiful memory,” he explains.
Burgess says she designed Norman’s freestyle – set to Thirty Seconds to Mars hit, “Walk on Water” -- to play to his strengths and his story as a football player.
“It’s time to bring the beast that is Josh Norman on the field to this ballroom,” Burgess shares, explaining that she wanted to capture the intensity of a football game day to the competition. “This freestyle is a piece no one else in this final could do. Only he could do it. It is built around his strengths.” The pair will also perform a foxtrot to “Conquerer” by the cast of Empire, featuring Estelle and Jussie Smollett.
Johnson is bringing Rippon’s particular flair (and some fans) into their choreography as well – with a jazz routine to “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun -- saying that their freestyle dance to DJ Kass’ “Scooby Doo Pa Pa” is “something no one’s really seen on the show before.”
This season's celebrities are relishing in their experience on the show, though it has been shorter than most.. Harding says that she already feels like a winner just by making the finals, while Norman admits that he “didn’t know what [he] signed up for” with the intense pace of this four-week competition, but he hopes he’s inspired others with his journey.
“It made me go to a different place that I'd never, ever been before, and now I can say that whenever I’m faced with an obstacle or something that’s in my way, I’ve been to the bottom,” Norman tells ET. “I've been amazed by what I'm able to do, truly. I really have been 'cause I've put the work and time into it to be a dancer."
So, who do you think will take home the trophy - Team Axellent, Team Back That Pass Up or Team Just Friends?