In what has been the most remarkable year in the young life of French train hero Alek Skarlatos, the former Sacramento area resident dances for the win tonight before a national television audience.
Skarlatos with partner Lindsay Arnold made it to the final three Monday night on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars with a dark, military-themed performance. Also advancing to tonight’s finals were Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Australian television conservationist and boy band singer Nick Carter.
In the audience cheering were two childhood friends, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone. The three, while on vacation, helped subdue a terrorist aboard a train headed to Paris earlier in the year.
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The dance-off will take place in prime time at 9 p.m. During the run-up to the final, Skarlatos has waltzed to “America the Beautiful” and also mastered the Paso Doble and the salsa. In preparation for the sexy salsa, he endured having his chest hair waxed off during rehearsal.
In a video from the show, Skarlatos, an Army National guardsman, recounts his eventful year.
“This is by far the best year I’ve had,” he said. “The year started in Afghanistan on deployment. Now I’m here. And just all the crazy things that happened in between.”
Post-deployment, came the heroics on the train. Afterward, Skarlatos and his friends received France highest award, the Legion of Honor, for bravery in the face of the attack.
They had an audience with President Barack Obama at the White House in September and were feted in Sacramento with a downtown parade.
Also this year, tragedy occurred at his college. On October 1, a mass shooting occurred on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. Ten people, including the gunman, were killed and others were wounded.
He also visited his friend Stone in the hospital where the airman was recuperating from knife wounds suffered during a brawl in midtown Sacramento.
Tonight, he dances in the two-hour season finale. The winning couple gets the coveted Mirrorball trophy.
That campy award won’t approach the prestige of the Legion of Honor or a meeting with POTUS – but it would be hard-earned.