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Rippon, Harding to square off in 'DWTS' finale

Figure skaters, football player Norman reach championship round
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Figure skating will be well represented in the 'Dancing with the Stars' finale, as Tonya Harding and Adam Rippon have both advanced to the last round of the competition. -ABC/Kelsey McNeal

In Monday's finale of Dancing with the Stars, the three remaining couples in the four-week, all-athlete season will take to the ballroom floor for their last dances. There will be two skaters in the mix, as Adam Rippon and Tonya Harding vie for the coveted mirror ball trophy along with NFL player Josh Norman.

In last week's semifinal round, Mirai Nagasu and partner Alan Bersten opened the evening with a quickstep, while Harding and Sasha Farber performed a rumba and Rippon and Jenna Johnson chose a contemporary routine. The former turned out to be the highest-scoring dance of the season.

Next was the ballroom battle dance-off. With both teams dancing a cha cha, Harding and Farber got the nod over softball pitcher Jennie Finch-Daigle and Keo Motsepe. Then, Rippon and Nagasu faced off against each other doing a jive, with Rippon earning the win and two additional points. At the conclusion of the evening, Rippon and Harding, and their partners, advanced to the final, and Nagasu was sent home.

In the evening's first round, the celebrity athletes spoke of the MVPs (Most Valuable People) in their lives. For Rippon, his MVP was his mother, Kelly, who was present in the ballroom. Sitting across from Nagasu's mother, she found herself crying during the pre-dance footage.

"I was almost in shock," said Kelly, who will be in the audience for the final. "I think I'm still processing everything because when I listen to the music of that night, it's overwhelming.

"His timing is impeccable, and their unison is impeccable," she said. "Jenna is truly a master teacher. She finds his strengths and builds on those. The tribute not only to me but to that piece (the Coldplay song "O," which Rippon has used as his free skate music the last two seasons) and the story that stands behind that music was so beautiful."

In tonight's final show, Motsepe said he will be part of Harding and Farber's freestyle. At the time of this interview, he didn't yet know his role, but he was looking forward to seeing Farber's creativity unfold nonetheless.

"I know with Sasha it's going to be something fun and funny," Motsepe said. "Tonya has had a very emotional two weeks on the show. I think he's going to go with something uplifting, cute and happy. It will be like a celebration for her."

Motsepe, who joined DWTS in Season 19, admitted the abbreviated four-week season has been challenging for the pros. But, from the very first rehearsal, it was clear the intensity level was high.

"You felt the energy," Motsepe said. "In a usual season, it's competitive but very different. With only athletes, the competition was real. As pros, we knew, 'Let's bring it on now!' With the pros, it was all fun and healthy. We brought the best out of our partners.

"Athletes strive for perfection," he added. "They strive to win. They'll put in the hard work."

For the final, Rippon and Johnson will perform a jazz routine, followed by a freestyle to "Scooby Doo Pa Pa" by DJ Kass. Harding and Farber will open to a Viennese waltz and perform their freestyle to "I Will Survive."

Motsepe expects all three finalists to be at their best.

"All three couples in the final are a good match," Motsepe said. "Jenna and Adam have the friendship. You have Tonya and Sasha, who are very into business; they want to do this. Josh and (his partner) Sharna [Burgess] are fierce, strong and have great chemistry. It's going to be a very different final."