DWTS: Olympian top competitor for Season 23

The frontrunner for Season 23 of “Dancing with the Stars” should be Olympic gold and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez, but the last time an Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast competed, Alexandra Raisman, a singer won. Shawn Johnson won the first time she competed, but not when she returned as an all-star.

During Season 16, just after the London Summer Olympics, Kellie Pickler teamed with Derek Hough won, beating Zendaya and Valentine Chmerkovskiy. Raisman, dancing with Mark Ballas, finished in fourth place, making the semi-finals, but it was NFL wide receiver Jacoby Jones who went to the finals.  With Raisman, it will likely come down to popularity with the DWTS fans and not the judges’ scores.

Olympic gold medalists who have won the show include Apolo Anton Ohno Season 4 (short track speed skating), Kristi Yamaguchi Season 6 (figure skating), Shawn Johnson Season 8 (gymnastics) and Meryl Davis Season 18 (ice dancing).

Kirstie Alley was the oldest person to make the top three at 60 during Season 12.

Fan favorites Derek Hough, Cheryle Burke and Maksim Chmerkovskiy are returning for Season 23. Thirteen contestants include a Disney star, reality TV stars, talk show hosts, a major politician, older stars from popular programs of yesteryear and a bad boy trying to polish his image.

Actor Jake T. Austin, 21,  teams with Jenna Johnson. Austin is Latino–Puerto Rican, Argentine and Spanish on his mother’s side, but Polish, Irish and English on his father’s side. He’s a Disney Channel star, who played Max Russo on the TV series “Wizards of Waverly Place.” He did play Jesus Foster on the ABC family show, “The Fosters.” Austin is originally from New York City.

Johnson is a new professional dance who might be handicapped by a lack of experience.

R&B singer-songwriter Babyface, 57, dances with Allison Holker. The oldest mirrorball winner was Donny Osmond at 51. Born Kenneth Brian Edmonds in Indianapolis, Indiana, Babyface has won 11 Grammy Awards.  We know that Babyface can feel the beat, but whether he has the stamina and the discipline to learn ballroom is another matter.

Holker has competed three seasons previously, 19-21. Her highest finished was second with Riker Lynch, singer-songwriter and former Dalton Academy Warbler on the hit TV show “Glee.” Rumer Willis and Valentin Chmerkovskiy finished in first place that season.

Actress Marilu Henner, a perky 64, will be paired with Valentin Chmerkovskiy. The Chicago-born actress is best known for her role Elaine O-Connor Nardo in the sitcom “Taxi” from 1978-1983. Henner has previously been on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008.  Henner is currently the host of her own show, “The Marilu Henner Show.” She is known for her hyperthymesia.

The 31-year-old Hough is a award-winning choreographer, West End actor and currently has a recurring role on ABC’s “Nashville.” He first competed on DWTS on Season 5 when he finished fourth with “Beverly Hills 90120” actress Jennie Garth.  This will be his 17th time on the show as a professional dancer. He has finished first six times: Season 7 with Brooke Burke, Season 10 with Nicole Scherzinger, Season 11 with “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey, Season 16 with “American Idol” favorite Kellie Pickler, Season 17 with “Glee” star Amber Riley, and last season, Season 21, with Bindi Irwin. He finished second with Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson (Tony Dovolani won with Melissa Rycroft) during Season 15 and again during Season 18 with Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy (Meryl Davis won with Maksim Chmerkovskiy).

Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez is probably the frontrunner for the mirrorball. Hernandez finished the Rio Olympics with a team gold and a balance beam silver. At 16, she has that in her favor along with her flexibility, stamina and discipline. Valentin Chmerkovskiy, 30, must be planning some amazing stunts.

This will be Val’s 11th season on DWTS. He first danced with Elisabetta Canalis during Season 13. He has only one first place finish (Willis during Season 20), but has finished third three times: Season 15 with Kelly Monaco, Season 19 with Janel Parrish and Season 22 with Ginger Zee.

James Hinchcliffe, a race car driver, dances with Sharna Burgess. At 29, he is a good age for this reality show. The most successful race car driver on DWTS was Hélio Castroneves who won Season 5 while partnered with Julianne Hough. He returned for the All-Star season, dancing with Chelsie Hightower. NASCAR driver and team owner Michael Waltrip lasted only eight weeks on DWTS (with Emma Slater) on Season 19 (Alfonso Ribeiro won with Witney Carson).

Hinchcliffe’s partner Burgess has competed on seven previous season. Her best finish was with Nick Carter during Season 21 and third with Noah Galloway during Season 20 Rumer Willis and Val were first and Riker Lynch and Allison Holker third during Season 20. Burgess and Nick Carter were behind Bindi and Hough for Season 21

Reality TV star Terra Jolé will hit the ballroom with Sasha Farber. Jolé is on the cast of the Lifetime TV reality series “Little Women: LA.” This is Farber’s third season on DWTS. His best finish was eighth place with Kim Fields during Season 22.

Rapper Vanilla Ice is teamed with Witney Carson. At 48, the Dallas-born Vanilla Ice, born Robert Matthew Van Winkle, might be finding stamina a problem. One of his best known songs is “Ice Ice Baby.”

Carson has competed five previous season. During her second season, Season 19, she won the mirrorball trophy dancing with Alfonso Ribeiro.

Calvin Johnson, former NFL wide receiver, dances with Lindsay Arnold. The 30-year-old Johnson formerly played for the Detroit Lions. He broke Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards in 2012 and tied Michael Irvin’s record for most 100-yard games in a season. Rice and Irvin both competed on DWTS. Rice finished second on DWTS teamed with Anna Trebunskaya (Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke won) during Season 2.  Irvin competed during Season 9 and finished ninth (Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson won).

Three football players have won: Emmitt Smith/Cheryl Burke, Season 3; Hines Ward/Kym Johnson, Season 12 and Donald Driver/Peta Murgatroyd, Season 14.

Arnold has competed three previous seasons (16, 21 and 22), but Season 21 was her best finish (thid) with Alek Skarlatos, who became a celebrity after he and his friends stopped a terrorist on a Paris-bound train.

Country music singer Jana Kramer will pair with Gleb Savchenko. Kramer, 32, played Alex Dupre, an actress turned model from 2009 to 2012 (43 episodes), on the WB series (2003-2006, then CW 2006-2012) “One Tree Hill.”  Her top hit was the 2012 single “Why Ya Wanna.”

Savchenko was in the American cast of DWTS during Season 16 with Lisa Vanderpump. He’s competed in the Australian (2012) and Russian (2015) versions for one season each.

Bad boy Ryan Lochte, 32, will attempt to redeem himself with Cheryl Burke. Lochte is a 12-time Olympic medalist with six gold, three silver and three bronze medals and competed at the 2008 Beijing, the 2012 London and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  After telling an exaggerated story about being robbed by law enforcement officials in Rio at gunpoint, Lochte lost his endorsement deals with Speedo and Ralph Lauren.

This is the 19th season for Burke on DWTS. She has finished first twice: Season 2 with Drew Lachey and Season 3 with Emmitt Smith. She finished second with Gilles Marini during Season 8 and during Season 13 with Rob Kardashian. She also had third place finishes with Cristián de la Fuente (Season 6), William Levy (Season 14) and Jack Osbourne (Season 17).

Brady Bunch sweetheart Maureen McCormick cha chas with Artem Chigvintsev. At 60, she is only four years younger than Henner, but McCormick was fan favorite Marsha Brady on the ABC sitcom, “The Brady Bunch.”  This isn’t her first reality show. Last year, she was on “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!”

Russian-born Chigvintsev was in the British version of the show and won during Season 8 with Kara Tointon. He finished second during Season 11 with Natalie Gumede.He joined the American cast for Season 19 (Lea Thompson) and was in 20 (Patti LaBelle) and 22 (Mischa Barton). His best finish to date is sixth place with Thompson.

Politician Rick Perry dances with Emma Slater. Perry was the 47th governor of Texas and the longest serving (Dec. 2000-Jan. 2015).  He became governor when then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become president. Perry ran for the Republican nomination for president against Donald Trump. At 66, he is the oldest contestant.

His partner, Slater, has competed five previous season. Her best finish was her first season, Season 17, with comedian Bill Engvall, for a fourth place finish.

Model and actress Amber Rose will learn under ballroom bad boy Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Rose has her own talk show, “The Amber Rose Show,” on VH1 that just debuted in July of this year.  Rose has spoken out against slut-shaming and bullying.

This is Maksim’s 15th season on DWTS. Maksim won the trophy with Meryl Davis during Season 18. He finished second with actress Kirstie Alley  during Season 12 (Hines Ward and Kym Johnson won) and with Melanie “Mel B” Brown (Hélio Castroneves and Julianne Hough won) during Season 5. He finished third with Laila Ali Season 4 Apolo anton Ohno/Julianne Hough first and Joey Fantone/Kym Johnson second) and Erin Andrews during Season 10 (Nicole Scherzinger/Derek Hough first and Evan Lysacek/Anna Trebunskaya second).

Season 23 of DWTS premieres Sept. 12 on ABC.

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