1. ADAM RIPPON AND JENNA JOHNSON Figure skater Rippon was the first openly gay U.S. male to medal in PyeongChang, but it’s his winning personality that made him famous. Van Amstel thinks Rippon’s new celebrity status will be a draw for voters. “At the Olympics he was an advocate for people to be themselves, and he got so much airtime for that,” Van Amstel notes. “I hope he wins.” One hitch could be the emotional toll of competing against one of his best friends, fellow skater Mirai Nagasu.
2. CHRIS MAZDZER AND WITNEY CARSON The luger won silver in PyeongChang, but Van Amstel thinks Mazdzer’s strength lies outside of his athleticism. “Dancing With the Stars is not just about being the best dancer,” he explains. “It is about how you relate to the audience, your personality and partner chemistry. Chris’s personality is contagious. And let’s not forget, he’s very handsome too.” Pro Carson also knows how to coach a winner; she and Alfonso Ribeiro were the champs in Season 19.
Jennie Finch Daigle
Partner: Keo Motsepe
Partner: Sharna Burgess
5. JAMIE ANDERSON AND ARTEM CHIGVINTSEV The snowboarder is used to winning—she took home gold medals in the last two Winter Games. Van Amstel thinks Anderson can be a contender here too, especially paired with fan favorite Chigvintsev. Says Van Amstel: “I think Jamie and Artem are going to do really well.”
3. MIRAI NAGASU AND ALAN BERSTEN “In the history of the show, the skaters have always had an advantage because they have pretty much danced all their lives, just on ice,” Van Amstel says of the figure skater, who began her sport at age 5. Van Amstel is confident in her ability to go far. Plus, “Mirai is so likable. She is my No. 1 pick.”
4. TONYA HARDING AND SASHA FARBER “Tonya has a big mountain to climb because of what people think of her,” Van Amstel says, equating her to his 2015 partner, Paula Deen. The former professional figure skater’s reputation took a beating after the 1994 incident in which her ex-husband hired someone to attack Harding’s rival Nancy Kerrigan (who competed on Season 24 of DWTS). Then last year’s film I, Tonya painted Harding in a more sympathetic light. “She’s either going to be a big hit or a big miss,” says Van Amstel, who also notes that it’s been a while since the retired athlete has been in competition mode, which puts her at a physical disadvantage. Regardless, he adds, “This could be redemption time.”
Partner: Emma Slater
Partner: Gleb Savchenko
Shine those shoes, make sure to stretch, and tighten that ponytail because the competition is on.
ABC just announced who the next contestants will be on the athletes-only Season 26 of Dancing With the Stars. So put your hands together for Tonya Harding, Adam Rippon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, just to name a few.