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Twinkle toes: 'Dancing with the Stars' opts for all-athlete cast in new season

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Athletes have fared pretty well on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” over the years, with several, including former NFL stars Hines Ward and Emmitt Smith, winning the whole thing.

Now ABC has announced it’s doing an all-athletes version of the competition for its 26th season, which starts April 30.

The cast of the all-athletes edition was introduced on “Good Morning America” Friday and includes some names you might not associate with cutting the rug.

One of the contestants is basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 70, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. At 7 feet 2, Abdul-Jabbar will tower close to two feet over his dancing partner, Lindsay Arnold. Abdul-Jabbar turns 71 on Monday.

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Washington Redskins star cornerback Josh Norman is the only football player on the show.

Former major leaguer Johnny Damon, who won rings with the Yankees in 2009 and the Red Sox in 2004, is also in the competition. Damon and his Boston teammates called themselves “idiots” as they brought the city its first World Series championship in 86 years.

There are also several figure skaters, including Tonya Harding, Mirai Nagasu and Adam Rippon.

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Nagasu and Rippon were on the 2018 U.S. Olympic figure skating team. Rippon, who is gay, waged a one-sided feud with Vice President Mike Pence in Pyeongchang.

Harding gained notoriety in 1994 when her ex-husband hired a hitman to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan. The recent film “I Tonya” revived interest in her story.

“It’s been a very, very long time since I had people respect me in any way, so that’s where the emotion comes in,” Harding said of being on the show, according to the Associated Press.

“If I get a standing ovation or have a huge crowd that does like me, I’ll cry,” she added.

Other competitors include snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who won Olympic gold at the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, and U.S. luger Chris Mazdzer, who won silver at the 2018 Winter Games.

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Also competing are softball player Jennie Finch Daigle, a former All-American at Arizona who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver in 2008 competing for Team USA.

Finally, the hero of the 2018 NCAA women’s college basketball tournament, Arike Ogunbowale, will be dancing as well. The All-American hit buzzer-beaters over UConn in the semifinals and Mississippi State in the finals to carry Notre Dame to the national championship.

They will try to join NFL players Donald Driver, Rashad Jennings, Smith and Ward; skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Meryl Davis and Apolo Anton Ohno; and gymnast Laurie Hernandez as athletes who have won the competition.

Football players seem to have a pretty good track record, so consider Norman the favorite.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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