The elimination came down to Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider and his pro partner, Emma Slater, and Paralympic skier Danelle Umstead and her partner, Artem Chigvintsev. After (most) of the votes were counted, it was Umstead who ended up getting the axe.
ET caught up with the 46-year-old athlete — who is also the first blind contestant in DWTS history — after her emotional on-air goodbye, and she was still wiping tears from her eyes as she opened up about the disappointingly early elimination.
“I’m really sad that it’s ending this quickly,” Umstead shared. “But it’s been an incredible journey and I’m honored to have had Artem by my side.”
Umstead and Chigvintsev had one of the toughest challenges this season, considering the athlete’s retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that has nearly entirely destroyed her vision. But through rigorous training, innovating teaching techniques and a closely forged bond of trust, they managed to pull off four separate, inspiring dance numbers in just two weeks.
On Tuesday, the pair performed a quickstep set to “Luck Be a Lady,” which was performed live by Donny Osmond, who even joined the couple on stage for a few steps of their routine.
“I’m so thankful for every minute he’s invested in me,” she said of her 36-year-old partner. “I appreciate him.” For Chigvintsev, the feeling is mutual.
“I can’t even describe with words, it’s been so humbling,” Chigvintsev said of her time and experience with Umstead. “It’s very sad. Because I’ve seen what kind of hard work she’s been putting in every single day, just even to live her life, [nonetheless] the fact that she’s dancing! You know, it’s incredible to witness and I’m so glad that I was part of it.”
The talented dancer and long-time DWTS pro, who has now competed on eight seasons of the ABC reality competition show, said he wished they’d gotten more votes, but didn’t regret anything they managed to accomplish.
“This was the experience we got and I’m very happy,” Chigvintsev reflected. “I wouldn’t change a bit and I’m very happy to be her partner.”