Dancing With The Stars: Athletes Odds & Predictions

Amy Purdy and Derek Hough on Dancing with the Stars.
Season 26 of Dancing with the Stars will feature an all-athlete cast, but sadly no Derek Hough (R). Photo by Disney | ABC Television Group (flickr) [CC License].

The full slate of contestants for Season 26 of Dancing with the Stars (DwtS) titled Dancing with the Stars: Athletes — was released today and, as you might expect, features an all-athlete cast.

The ten athletes competing for the coveted Mirrorball trophy are …

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (retired NBA player)
  • Jamie Anderson (snowboarder)
  • Johnny Damon (retired MLB player)
  • Jennie Finch (softball player)
  • Tonya Harding (retired figure skater)
  • Chris Mazdzer (luger)
  • Mirai Nagasu (figure skater)
  • Josh Norman (NFL player)
  • Arike Ogunbowale (college basketball player)
  • Adam Rippon (figure skater)

Usually, finding the favorite in any DwtS season is as easy as finding the best athletes on the show, so this iteration presents a new wrinkle when it comes to setting the odds. But we’re not ones to shy away from a challenge.

Below, we sort the early frontrunners from the true longshots and look at a couple fun props for Season 26, which premieres on Monday, April 30.

DwtS Season 26 Winner

COUPLE ODDS
Mirai Nagasu with Alan Bersten 7/2
Adam Rippon with Jenna Johnson 4/1
Josh Norman with Sharna Burgess 6/1
Chris Mazdzer with Witney Carson 9/1
 Arike Ogunbowale with Gleb Savchenko 9/1
Jamie Anderson with Artem Chigvintsev 12/1
Jennie Finch with Keo Motsepe 16/1
Johnny Damon with Emma Slater 18/1
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Lindsay Arnold 38/1
 Tonya Harding with Sasha Farber 74/1

The advantage has to go to the figure skaters. They are essentially professional dancers already, and then some.

Don’t count out Norman, though. NFL players have historically found a lot of success on DwtS, see: Emmitt Smith (Season 3 winner), Hines Ward (Season 12 winner), and Rashad Jennings (Season 24 winner).

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tonya Harding are the longshots. Kareem because of his age; Harding because of both age and reputation. More on that in a moment …

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl Davis with the Mirrorball trophy.
Maksim Chmerkovskiy (L) and Meryl Davis (R) won the coveted Mirrorball Trophy in Season 18, Photo by Disney | ABC Television Group (flickr) [CC License].

First Contestant Eliminated

COUPLE ODDS
Tonya Harding 5/2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 9/2
Johnny Damon 9/1
Jennie Finch 9/1
Jamie Anderson 12/1
Chris Mazdzer  15/1
Arike Ogunbowale  15/1
Josh Norman 19/1
Mirai Nagasu  24/1
Adam Rippon  24/1

Eight out of ten contestants are elite athletes at or near their physical peak.

There there’s Kareem (70 years old) and Tanya (47).

The former retired from the NBA in 1989, before Jamie Anderson, Mirai Nagasu, and Arike Ogunbowale were even born. The latter is nearing 50 and most famous for maiming one-time nemesis Nancy Kerrigan. Even if Harding can keep up physically, there’s a good chance the judges penalize her (consciously or subconsciously) for her past.

Josh Norman talks wit Brandon Marshall on the field.
Will we see more than just Josh Norman’s (R) bicep on Dancing with the Stars? Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License].

First Male Contestant to Dance Shirtless

COUPLE ODDS
Adam Rippon 2/1
Chris Mazdzer 3/1
Josh Norman 3/1
Johnny Damon 5/1
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 99/1

Aside from Kareem, this is a wide-open race, and given the contestants the producers selected, few people will complain if more than one satisfies the criterion.

Tonya Harding/Injury Props

PROP ODDS
Any contestant, host, or judge references Harding/Kerrigan club incident 50/1
 Nancy Kerrigan appears in the audience  999/1
 Any figure skater (Harding, Rippon, Nagasu) wins Season 26 9/7
Any contestant is injured during rehearsals or a routine 5/1
Any contestant is injured by another contestant 249/1

Harding probably has a clause in her contract that the Kerrigan incident won’t be mentioned on air, but people can always slip up.

As for the injuries, the choreographers are dealing exclusively with athletes this time around, many of whom are used to launching themselves into the air. They will likely plan more risky maneuvers, which could easily lead to injuries. Also, Kareem is ancient.