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Dancing with the Stars is returning to ABC with a decidedly sporty twist before the end of the month. Season 26 will be Dancing with the Stars: Athletes and feature 10 big names from sports partnering up with professional dancers to try and win the mirrorball trophy. The stars hail from a variety of sports, and each brings a distinct set of strengths to the dance floor. The Athletes edition is also much shorter than previous seasons and will run for only four weeks. Professional dance partner Lindsay Arnold has revealed how the shorter season will affect the competition, saying this:
Yeah, it's very different this time around. Two people are going to be going home every week, so it's different than our normal season. We're not going to be kind of focusing on getting better week after week, it's kind of like you've got to come out with your best moves and then show off every single week. Our strategy is - first of all, we do want to get better because this is Kareem's first time doing all of the dances that I'm teaching him, so we know that it's going to be a progress, and he's going to get better as we go on, but we want to try to be as strong as we can Week 1.
Lindsay Arnold will partner basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for Dancing with the Stars: Athletes, and her comments to TVGuide indicate that they'll have to come out strong right away if they want to stay in the competition for all four weeks. Of course, it's always important for the dancers to do their best right away even in regular seasons of Dancing with the Stars, but the teams usually have more wiggle room to get in the groove. If teams can't strut their stuff in the first week, they might not get the chance to improve for the second week. Two eliminations per week must be intimidating for all the pairs in the Athletes edition!
All things considered, Lindsay Arnold and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may be the team to watch in Dancing with the Stars: Athletes. Arnold won Season 25 with Jordan Fisher back in November 2017, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has obviously proven himself as a talented athlete. That said, he's also the oldest star in the competition at the age of 71. We can't guarantee how long Arnold and Abdul-Jabbar will get to stay in the game, but they should be fun to watch. After all, Abdul-Jabbar is more than a foot and a half taller than Arnold. It might be a challenge for the crew to keep them both on camera!
Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Lindsay Arnold will face some stiff competition. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon (who made a splash with his commentary during the PyeongChang Games) will partner professional dancer Jenna Johnson, Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale will join Gleb Savchenko, Olympic luge athlete Chad Mazdzer will work with Witney Carson, Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson will partner Artem Chigvintsev, softball Olympian Jennie Finch Daigle will hit the stage with Keo Motsepe, MLB alum Johnny Damon is with Emma Slater, NFL player Josh Norman will dance with Sharna Burgess, Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu (who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in a Winter Olympics) will join Alan Bersten, and Tonya Harding -- yes, that Tonya Harding -- will dance with Sasha Farber.
All of these athletes know what it takes to deliver in competition, but none of them ever competed in anything quite like a season of Dancing with the Stars. I'm inclined to give the edge to figure skaters Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu, who were in Olympic shape not so long ago in a sport that involves a lot of grace and difficult choreography. Tonya Harding could have an edge as well. Then again, who knows? Perhaps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the other non-skaters will have some surprises in to. Besides, it's not like the skaters are ice dancers.