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Harding earns high praise ahead of 'DWTS' debut

Partner Sasha Farber calls 1991 U.S. champ 'hard-working, coachable'
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As they prepare to take the stage on Season 26 of 'Dancing with the Stars,' professional dancer Sasha Farber has been singing the praises of his partner, Tonya Harding. -ABC/Craig Sjodin

With Season 26 of Dancing with the Stars set to premiere Monday, April 30, on ABC, Tonya Harding and professional dance partner Sasha Farber have been working tirelessly to deliver a great show.

"I wish this was a longer season because I love working with Tonya," Farber said ahead of the start of the four-week, all-athlete season.

Following the April 13 cast announcement, Harding received some negative feedback on social media, but Farber said she's remained focused on learning to dance and enjoying the overall experience.

"Sometimes, I wonder, 'How is she doing this?'" he said. "She allows the positive and doesn't allow the negative, which is great. She's probably one of the hardest-working dance partners that I've had. She just wants to do it, which I love.

"Obviously, there are people out there who have their own opinions, but Tonya is such a strong woman in that sense. She can block that out."

Farber has been a mainstay on DWTS since his debut in 2012, serving as both a member of the troupe and a pro dancer. His celebrity partners have included actress Kim Fields and gymnast Simone Biles. He also danced with Kristi Yamaguchi on the Season 16 finale, when Yamaguchi joined Dorothy Hamill on stage.

Harding, 47, has been getting in shape over the past year by skating. Farber said the two-time Olympian is picking up a lot of the dance technique, and, given the limited time frame, he's preparing her to take on as much technical content as possible.

"When you have an 11-week season, you gracefully start off slow and then go in hard, but there's no time to go in slow this season," he said. "Everyone is an athlete. Everyone knows what it takes to win. Everyone knows how to train. I'm sure not only us, but everyone is going as hard as they possibly can.

"Tonya's sweating every rehearsal," he added. "She keeps telling me, 'Look how much weight I've lost.' She's loving it, and it puts such a big smile on my face to see Tonya happy and enjoying this process."

Farber said people will see the depth of her emotions in their performances, including their first dance, which will be a foxtrot to the song "When You Believe." Farber also promised both he and his hard-working partner will deliver plenty of content and pizzazz.

"She's definitely very coachable," he said. "She made history, and I love that I get to teach this woman how to dance. I'm excited for her to be a part of this show and for people to see a different side of her."