The pro dancer has high hopes for a certain Olympian, but has trouble pinpointing a frontrunner

August 04, 2012 02:45 PM
Jesse Grant/WireImage; Sipa

Since the all-star cast of the fall season of Dancing with the Stars was revealed, it’s become clear that all bets are off regarding the show’s next winner. After all, the cast includes returning champions like former NFL player Emmitt Smith and Olympians Apolo Anton Ohno and Shawn Johnson, as well as beloved fan-favorites like Melissa Rycroft, Kirstie Alley and Gilles Marini.

But Dancing pro (and season 13 winner) Karina Smirnoff isn’t afraid to share her thoughts on who might emerge victorious in the show’s new season, which premieres Sept. 24 on ABC.

“The women are very strong, but the male celebrity guests are a little bit stronger overall,” Smirnoff told PEOPLE at an event sponsored by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I mean, we have an Olympian male guest – Apolo Anton Ohno. I’m sure he’ll go very far.”

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Otherwise, added Smirnoff, it’s a crapshoot. “It’s going to depend on the chemistry that [the stars] have with their partners, the quality of the dancing that [they] do, and who has more fans,” she said.

There is one star for whom Smirnoff doesn’t have high hopes, however. “I’d be very, very surprised if [Bristol Palin] won,” she said. “Bristol was not known as the best dancer of [her] season. … There was so much controversy when she was on.” (Still, the reality star landed in the finale during season 11.)

Smirnoff doesn’t know with whom she’ll be waltzing this fall, but she says she’ll be happy to start rehearsals with any of the male all-stars. “From Joey Fatone to Gilles Marini to Emmit Smith,” she said, “Whoever it is, I can’t go wrong.”

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