So long buzzer beaters. Hello bossa nova moves.
Arike Ogunbowale, the Notre Dame basketball star whose pair of last-minute shots won her team the crown in perhaps the most spectacular women’s Final Four ever this year, will compete on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“Are you clutch on the dance floor too?” Robin Roberts asked Ogunbowale Friday morning on “Good Morning America” as the cast was revealed.
“I guess we’ll find out,” the college junior responded via a live remote hookup from the Notre Dame campus.
Ogunbowale will be joined in the competition by Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, two time World Series winner Johnny Damon and NBA hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the first ever, all athlete edition of show when it returns for its 26th season on ABC on April 30th.
“The big twist this season is that they’re all athletes,” said GMA co-host and former NFL star Michael Strahan just before the ten sports stars taking part were unveiled. “And they’re very competitive.”
And how. In one of the worst kept secrets ever, the cast includes onetime bad girl figure skater Tonya Harding. Now 47, 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).
“Sasha’s got his hands full,” Harding said on GMA, referring to her professional dance partner Sasha Farber. Asked how her skating skill would transfer to the dance floor, Harding laughed. “It doesn’t.”
Among others who’ll be vying to add DWTS’s coveted Mirrorball Trophy to their hardware collection are a pair of Olympic gold medalists — Jamie Anderson, who won back-to-back golds at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games in snowboarding, and Jennie Finch, who helped the U.S. women’s softball team win gold and silver in 2004 and 2008.
Meanwhile, Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu, figure skaters who made nearly as much news off the ice as on at this year’s Winter Olympics also are part of the cast. They’ll try to live up to their sport’s good history on the show, which has seen Olympic gold medalists Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis both win in their respective seasons.
“Those are some big shoes to fill,” the normally ebullient Rippon said almost shyly on Friday morning.
Athletes tend to do very well on DWTS. They’ve won 10 of the previous 25 seasons, starting with football Hall of Famer and ex-Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith in Season 3. Former University of Georgia football great (and Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers) Hines Ward won Season 12. Most recently, Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Laurie Hernandez claimed the Mirrorball Trophy in Season 23.
It’s actually led to some grumbling about unfair advantages these already physically fit, highly trained jocks may have over, say, tubby tech geniuses (Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak lasted a millisecond on Season 8) and well-fed politicians (former U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay was bounced in week three of Season 9).
Well now everyone and no one will have the same advantages.
Season 26 will be different in other ways as well. Previous seasons have aired for 10 weeks or longer, but this one will be as fast as Chris Mazdzer, who zipped to a silver medal in luge at the 2018 Winter Olympics and will also be in the DWTS cast. Season 26, which will air on WSB-TV in Atlanta, will wrap up in just four weeks.