Dancing with the Stars announced the celebrities for its 19th season on Thursday. As usual, there was a heavy athlete presence with Olympian Lolo Jones, former UFC champion Randy Couture and longtime NASCAR star Michael Waltrip in the cast.
Ann Oldenburg of USA Today confirmed the entire group of participants along with the professional dancers who will serve as their teammates. Jones will team with Keo Motsepe, Couture is paired with Karina Smirnoff and Waltrip will chase the Mirror Ball Trophy with Emma Slater.
Jones confirmed her appearance and admitted she probably shouldn't be viewed as the early favorite with plenty of work to do:
Lolo Jones @lolojones
Rumors are true! I Can't wait to dance with @keodancer on @DancingABC... Well I can wait. We need to practice 🙈 http://t.co/3DTmpk6dcA9/4/2014, 1:00:23 PM
Based on the picture she posted to Instagram, it looks like the practice sessions are already underway:
Of course, she could be hiding her true potential on the dance floor. The dual Olympian, who's competed in the hurdles at the Summer Games and the bobsled in the Winter Games, certainly has the athleticism to rapidly improve in the weeks ahead.
Those who've made a similar transition in the past enjoyed success. Since the first Olympian took part in Season 4—eventual champion Apolo Anton Ohno—a total of four Olympic athletes have won the title:
|Olympian 'Dancing with the Stars' Results|
|Apolo Anton Ohno||4th||1st|
|"Sugar" Ray Leonard||12th||9th|
So it sounds like Jones may start slow, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see her become a contender as long as she's able to avoid early elimination.
The show will also allow MMA fans to see a softer side of Couture. He's since moved on to some acting in usually tough-guy roles. Now the focus will be on his finesse rather than the power that made him a star in the first place.
As for Waltrip, it's tough to know what to expect. The two-time Daytona 500 winner should bring some personality to the program, as he shows during his stints with NASCAR on Fox, but his dancing ability is very much a mystery.
All told, if an athlete is going to win this season, the track record suggests it would be Jones. But who knows, maybe Couture or Waltrip are prepared to surprise.