Tonight’s the night, folks. The hit show Dancing With the Stars returns at 7PM CST on ABC. The dancing competition that takes mostly C to D-list celebrities, stuffs them into dresses and leotards, and parades them out for our entertainment will get its 29th season underway with a slew of entertainers, singers, and most importantly, athletes.
DWTS has a long history of having athletes on the show, and they’ve been extremely successful. Starting in Season One with Evander Holyfield and this season with Vernon Davis, Charles Oakley, and Johnny Weir, sports stars have had their time to shine on the dance floor. The show even had an “Athletes Only” edition during the 26th season of the show.
Plenty of Mirrorball Trophy winners in the athletic field, so let’s look back at the storied history of this television franchise.
Emmitt Smith, Season 3
The former Dallas Cowboys running back took home the Mirrorball trophy against a stacked field of Jerry Springer, Mario Lopez, and Joey Lawrence. Tucker Carlson was the first dancer eliminated.
Apolo Anton Ohno, Season 4
I feel like Apolo Anton Ohno was on my Wheaties boxes annually during my formative years. He won Season Four against the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, Joey Fatone, and Clyde Drexler.
Hélío Castroneves, Season 5
One of Indy Cars Series’ best, Hélío Castroneves took the checkered flag in Season Five. Other competitors in Hélío’s season were Wayne Newton, Mark Cuban, and Marie Osmond.
Kristi Yamaguchi, Season 6
Yamaguchi completed the fourth straight season of an athlete winning DWTS when she was victorious in Season Six. The Olympic figure skater beat out a star studded cast that included Penn Jillette, Steve Guttenberg, and Adam Corolla.
Shawn Johnson, Season 8
One of the many Olympic heroes to grace our list, Shawn Johnson tumbled and flipped her way to victory in Season Eight. Johnson took the crown over Denise Richards, Steve O, and Lil Kim. Johnson also finished in second place during the Season 15 “All-Stars” competition.
Hines Ward, Season 12
Two years after winning his second Super Bowl in 2009, Ward took home some more hardware in Season 12. Hines held off the likes of Wendy Williams, Ralph Macchio, and Kirstie Alley.
Donald Driver, Season 14
Donald Driver took home the Mirrorball Trophy in season 14 against fellow dancers Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White, and Maria Menounos.
Laurie Hernandez, Season 23
Another Olympic athlete, another DWTS winner. Laurie Hernandez took the top spot in Season 23 while fighting off tough competition from Rick Perry, Vanilla Ice, and Amber Rose.
Rashad Jennings, Season 24
Rashad Jennings may have ended up a better dancer than running back. He won Season 24 against Chris Kattan, Charo, and Mr. T, amongst other high-powered celebrities.
Adam Rippon, Season 26 “Athletes” Season
This one might be the most impressive of them all. Adam Rippon Season 24, which was all athletes. His win marked the 10th win for athletes out of 24 seasons at the time. The Season 24 field consisted of, amongst others, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jennie Finch, and Josh Norman.
Plenty of Dancing With the Stars seasons, plenty of athletes taking home Mirrorball Trophies. For a competition in which hundreds of participants have vied for the top spot, former players and Olympians have reigned supreme approximately 36% of the time. Maybe the executives over at ABC should consider a non-athlete season due to the sheer dominance we’ve seen every the lifespan of the show.