“Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” Season 26 Cast
All-athletes cast includes three figure skaters, three more Olympic medalists, two basketball players, and a baseball and football player.
In most years that the show’s been on the air, the spring season of Dancing with the Stars has started already. But for this season, the new guy in charge has reduced the run to only four weeks, and they’re having a much later start. Even so, the roster hasn’t been reduced by all that much; there are ten couples. Each week will probably have to have double eliminations, with half the roster likely gone before they even really learn to dance. This probably won’t be the opportunity for exposure a number of the B-list actors and singers especially have been able to get on this show in the past. That’s not as much of a problem this season, since the competitors are all athletes, who are more likely do just be doing the show for fun. But it might be going forward, if they want to keep this format.
Meanwhile, the biggest names among the pros are also out. Maksim Chmerkovskiy has gone back into retirement (again), and wife Peta Murgatroyd and brother Val Chmerkovskiy have gone off touring with him. Cheryl Burke and Mark Ballas too should be otherwise occupied. The rest of the pros from last season are back, and Sasha Farber and Jenna Johnson have also both been rotated back in from the troupe.
That announcement was yesterday. Today, we learned who the pros are dancing with:
Jenna Johnson: Adam Rippon, the Olympic Show-Stealer
Jenna might have been the first one out her only other time, but she’s gotten a lot luckier in her second go-round. Adam’s not only a figure skater, who are usually very good, but an artistic one, with dream fluidity, he’s also both entertaining and likable off ice, and his fans love him. The flamboyant gayness might put off some red state fans, but he doesn’t need those. If there’s one problem he has, it’s that he’s drawing votes from the same pool of fans of at least one other contestant. But he’ll probably get the most of the three skaters in the cast. He & Jenna should last all four weeks, and have a very good chance of winning.
Sasha Farber: Tonya Harding, the Infamous Athlete
At least Adam shouldn’t lose too many votes to one of his fellow skaters. Tonya may have gotten the media and general public to sympathize with her right now. But the fact remains her not knowing about the attack on Nancy Kerrigan was implausible, she often didn’t put the work in during her skating career, and she tends to blame everyone for her failures except herself. Those last two things do not allow someone to last very long on this show at all. Even if she comes in with some votes from those to whom she has become a victim of sexism and classism, she may lose some of them quick.
Keo Motsepe: Jennie Finch Daigle, the Summer Olympic Medalist
Keo, too, might have finally gotten a really good partner at last. But it’s hard to tell right now, and we once thought the same of his very first Olympic athlete partner. But Jennie, as well as an Olympic gold medalist, remains the face of softball even eight years after retirement. Even if softball, as a woman’s sport, isn’t as big as some sports, she has the kind of fans who she’s been an inspiration to, and who will show up to vote. She’s also shown the kind of image and personality that’ll help her pick more votes up en route. So long as she can at least dance somewhat, there’s a good chance she’ll make a run of it.
Alan Bersten: Mirai Nagasu, the Current Ladies Skater
When two skaters were revealed early and neither were Mirai, everyone thought she hadn’t made it in, until today. Her Olympic bag was a bit more mixed than Rippon’s (though they both came out with the team bronze), with a triple axel and a heroic moment, but also a bad individual event and some imprudent comments. The real problem, however, is just that Rippon will be getting more of the votes from the skating fans. Mirai’s got fans of her in particular that are truly devoted, but they might not be enough. Under different circumstances, she’d be worthy of the final, but under the current ones, I fear an early shock elimination.
Sharna Burgess: Josh Norman, the Football Player
This season’s only football player is a current one, which makes him more likely to be good than bad, but he might always be the latter. You never know with football players. Meanwhile, he’s very well known in general, and between having four years on one team and now playing on another, he should come in with enough votes that between that and Sharna’s base, they’ll have some leeway. Maybe not enough to avoid early elimination in this cutthroat season if he can’t dance at all, but enough to survive an elimination or two if he’s okay, and enough to potentially win if he’s great.
Gleb Savchenko: Arike Ogunbowale, the Current Basketball Player
Two basketball players in the cast doubles the amount of players who have been on the show. Generally their height has been a problem; it’s not easy for tall people to dance. But in Gleb, Arike will at least have a partner who’s actually taller than her, which should help. She’s pretty much the biggest player in women’s college basketball right now, and her team, Notre Dame, won the big tournament last month, a victory which she was instrumental in. So votes to make the second half shouldn’t be a problem, at least if she’s able to dance. If she’s better than either of the two basketball players that preceded her did, she’s got a shot at the final.
Artem Chingvintsev: Jamie Anderson, the Two-Time Olympic Champion
Jamie, too, is an athlete who was just seen on U.S. TV winning her laurels, gold and silver both, although she already had the first Olympic gold from 2014. Of course, not being part of a big sports team means her fanbase won’t be nearly as big. She’ll probably have enough to maybe survive the first elimination, but beyond that, she’ll have to pick up fans fast. That’ll probably require her to be great as a dancer, being merely good might not preserve her. Her being great is far from impossible; the last snowboarder on this show was even without her lower legs, though the first was more mediocre.
Emma Slater: Johnny Damon, the Baseball Player
The only baseball player who’s been on this show was not good at first, got a little bit better, and then lasted *way* longer than he should have. And Johnny’s older and out of the game longer than David Ross had been. He also was part of World Series wins for two different teams, including the famous drought-breaking Red Sox win in 2004. So he’ll have the bases of two large teams to draw votes on. It may actually be harder for the weaker dancers to last longer than they should this season, but there’s a serious danger of him doing that. And if he proves a good dancer, well, at that point he might win.
Witney Carson: Chris Mazdzer, the Groundbreaking Olympic Medalist
Chris Mazdzer may only have won the silver in PyeongChang, but it was in men’s singles luge, in which no one outside of Europe had ever medaled before. That’s all well and good, but luge remains a very obscure sport in the U.S., and he’s not even the most famous American name in the sport, so fans will be limited. Even with his triumph highlighted on U.S. TV, when it’s been two months since then, most viewers had forgotten his name. Witney does have some fans of her own, but they’ll need them to survive the first week, and then to probably pick more up. And that’s if he can dance. He’ll likely be the first out if he can’t.
Lindsay Arnold: Kareen Abdul-Jabber, the Legendary Basketball Player
His is probably the most famous name in the cast, and while not everyone who’s heard of him will necessarily vote for him, plenty of basketball fans and probably some other people will. But he’s seventy years old, and most contestants that old have found themselves limited it what they can do, and that’s if they don’t end up pulling out due to injury. Also, height’s going to be a much bigger problem for him & Lindsay than for Arike & Gleb, since he’s nearly twice hers. Not insurmountable; we’ve even had a little contestant make the top five, but significant. Really, maybe they’d better give him a ballroom dance first, since those’ll be much easier for him than the Latin ones. If he struggles so much he does end up going first, he deserves to go with that much dignity.