One question that’s always circled around “Dancing with the Stars” has been the supposed advantages that celebrity contestants who also happen to be athletes have in the physically grueling event.
In all, 10 jocks have hoofed their way to the coveted Mirrorball Trophy, beginning with ex-Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith in Season 3 and including former UGA and Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward (Season 12) and Olympic gymnastics champ Laurie Hernandez (Season 23).
Now get ready to congratulate No. 11. When Season 26 kicks off April 30 on ABC, it will be an “all athlete” competition. On Friday, the top-secret list of 10 celebrity tango-ers in what the network’s calling the “most competitive season ever” will be officially unveiled on “Good Morning America” (Here in Atlanta, both GMA and “Dancing with the Stars” air on WSB-TV).
But some likely names of contestants already are out there unofficially.
Chief among them: Tonya Harding. Entertainment Tonight and Us Weekly both say that the onetime bad girl figure skater will take part this season, along with Adam Rippon, another skater who was one of the breakout stars of the recent Winter Olympics.
Two other Olympians, snowboarder Jamie Anderson and softball player Jennie Finch, also are rumored to be on the list (Fox News says onetime Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel was considered for a slot, but ultimately dropped for being “too controversial.”)
Meanwhile, entertainment web site goldderby.com, which has an excellent track record for calling Oscar nominations, is predicting that Nadia Comaneci, the first gymnast ever to earn a perfect 10 in the Olympics in 1976, will also give this season of DWTS a tumble (They’re reading the tea leaves in a tweet by DWTS host Tom Bergeron that slyly refers to a “perfect 10” cast).
Sitll, it’s Harding who’d soak up much of the attention if only to see how long she’d last in a competition in which both expert judging and viewer votes count. Harding became infamous and scorned by much of the public when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan just before the 1994 Winter Olympics (Harding herself ultimately pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution).
Yet public opinion of her may have softened a bit with the 2017 release of “I, Tonya,” the Oscar-winning movie about her life that was filmed here in Georgia.
Sadly, we won’t be seeing another Tonya-Nancy showdown. Kerrigan, who went on to win the silver medal at the 1994 Olympics (Harding finished in eighth place), competed on Season 24 of “Dancing with the Stars,” finishing sixth.
Check back here for updates on the full list of athlete competitors on “Dancing with the Stars.”