October 23, 2017 04:55 PM


Victoria Arlen is an ESPN personality and former Paralympian swimmer and  who, at age 11, was diagnosed with a neurological condition and an autoimmune disease, which affected her spinal cord and left her in a vegetative state for four years. Arlen slowly regained the ability to speak, eat, walk, and move and now is competing on season 25 of Dancing with the Stars — and is blogging about her experience on the ABC reality show exclusively for PEOPLE. Follow Arlen, 22, and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy, 31, on Twitter!

Last week’s Disney Night was a lot of fun — but going first at the opening of the show was a lot of pressure.

Still, when I put on that Minnie Mouse hat it was like, “Game on! I’m ready to jump on that steamboat and dance!”

That “game on” attitude has been really useful during rehearsals this past week. It’s Movie Night tonight and Val and I are paying homage to the sports movie genre. The Mighty Ducks and Miracle are two of my favorite movies of all time, so this genre is perfect for me. Sports movies are all about the underdog, which is something I’ve been many times in my life so I’m thrilled to get to celebrate underdogs.

Courtesy DWTS

We have a paso doble, which is really challenging and intense dance, but Val is absolutely brilliant and has put together a routine inspired by the sport I grew up playing: hockey. We’ve had a lot of light and fun dances, but the paso doble is a dance of strength and is really intense, so Val and I have taken the gloves off and gone from dance partners and friends to competitors for this routine.

Being competitive is in my nature. I actually think being competitive saved my life. It’s given me the constant drive to be better and when I was in that hospital bed and that wheelchair it made me want to get better.

To get in the spirit of the dance, Val and I have been doing little competitions all week. We had a swimming race this week and I had to learn how to talk trash and smack, which was a lot of fun. Last week you saw us as Mickey and Minnie and now you’re going to us going at it. I’m excited!

Dancing with the Stars airs Monday (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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