Tonya Harding may have run into trouble during her attempt at winning a medal for figure skating in the Olympics, but her reality TV record isn’t looking too shabby. On Sunday night’s finale of “Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition” on the Food Network, Harding’s three-course meal came out on top, making her the Season 16 winner.
“I can’t believe I did this,” Harding said, sounding gleeful about the victory that was guided by her mentor, Anne Burrell. “This time, I’ll say it was me, I did it,” Harding continued.
The editors then went to a quick shot of judge Zac Posen looking a bit startled, though that may have been an editing stunt. But viewers familiar with Harding’s history might have raised eyebrows at the comment.
That’s because Portland native Harding is still notorious for denying advance knowledge of the 1994 attack on Harding’s then-skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, an assault orchestrated by Harding’s ex-husband. Harding always said she didn’t know about the plan ahead of time, but she ultimately plead guilty to hindering prosecution, and resigned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
The Kerrigan scandal put her at the center of a media storm, but Harding made a comeback thanks to the movie, “I, Tonya,” in which star Margot Robbie played a more sympathetic version of Harding, and Allison Janney won an Oscar for her role as Harding’s difficult mother.
Harding stayed in the public spotlight as a competitor on the first all-athletes season of “Dancing With the Stars.” Though she didn’t win, she and partner Sasha Farber drew praise from the judges and finished in the finals.
“I never thought I would feel this alive again,” Harding said on the “Dancing With the Stars” finals, crediting “the amazing change in peoples’ hearts” for “keeping me going.”
Despite some bumps along the way, Harding hung in there for “Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition,” too, coming into the finals competing against actor and comedian Alec Mapa, who was mentored by Tyler Florence.
In the finale, judges Zac Posen (the designer also did judging duties until recently on “Project Runway”), Leah Cohen, and Melba Wilson declared that Harding’s three-course meal – a ricotta toast appetizer, lamb chop second course, and peach and blackberry tart with mascarpone ice cream dessert — was the meal they most wanted to eat again.
Harding won $25,000 in prize money, designated for a charity of the winner’s choice. Harding said she wanted the money donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
— Kristi Turnquist
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