Ryan Lochte’s “Dancing With the Stars” Season 23 debut may not have gone as planned, but his partner Cheryl Burke and the other contestants have his back.
After Lochte performed his routine with Burke on the “Dancing With the Stars” Season 23 live show on Monday, Sept. 12, two men suddenly rushed the stage and interrupted the judges who were critiquing the pair’s performance. Though the protesters weren’t shown on screen, judge Carrie Ann Inaba yelled “Excuse me!” several times when people began chanting anti-Lochte insults before demanding for the two men to get off the stage, ABC reported. They were later subdued by authorities and escorted out of the premises, according to the official statement from BBC Worldwide Productions.
The Olympic swimmer said that he was a “little hurt” by the interruption and that “so many feelings are going through [his] head,” when he was asked by host Tom Bergeron about his reaction. Lochte opened up about the incident during an interview with CNN after the show, where he confessed, “You know, at that moment, I was really heartbroken. My heart just sunk. It felt like somebody just ripped it apart.”
However, Lochte decided to simply “brush it off.” He continued, "I had to realize that I came out here in front of millions. I did something that I not know how to do -- I don't know how to dance," he said. "And I gave it my all and I'm glad I did it and I'm glad I'm here.”
Lochte’s partner, who had also been left flustered by incident, said that she was “completely shocked,” but also “beyond” proud of the athlete for his performance.
Robert Van Winkle, a.k.a. Vanilla Ice, who is competing against Lochte for the mirror ball trophy this year, also offered words of support for the swimmer. “He won the gold medal for this country, folks. Get over the bull story, whatever. It doesn't matter. He's a hero and he's a great guy on top of that,” he said of Lochte after the live show.
His pro dancer partner Witney Carson also shared her two cents about the incident, saying that this is the first time she’s witnessed something like this on “Dancing With the Stars.” She said, “I think it was just saddening and disheartening more than anything because this is such a positive show and we're all about putting people in a positive light," she told CNN. "For somebody to want to ruin that for Ryan is just really, really hard.”
Former NFL star Calvin Johnson Jr. said that though the “unfortunate” incident may have put “a damper” on the swimmer’s “Dancing With the Stars” debut, he hopes that his fellow dancer will keep doing his best and not let it bring him down. “You know, you have to keep pushing, have another great week next week. It sucks to have somebody like that in the crowd do those kinds of things. Nobody's perfect. Everybody makes mistakes,” he told CNN.
“Dancing With the Stars” Season 23 airs every Monday on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.