If there’s one person who knows how grueling an entire season of Dancing with the Stars can be, it’s season 6 champ Kristi Yamaguchi.
“The injuries aren’t surprising,” Yamaguchi says of season 8’s spate of injuries. “People don’t know how physical it gets. I think that’s one reason why athletes do well — they know how to listen to their bodies.”
Yamaguchi, who was in Los Angeles this weekend serving as an ambassador at the World Figure Skating Championships, sees one athlete from the current season who has a serious shot at the mirror-ball trophy: gymnast Shawn Johnson, who’s paired with Yamaguchi’s former partner Mark Ballas.
“Shawn is focused and as an athlete, she is used to taking direction and easily coachable,” says Yamaguchi. “Mark is having a great time working with her and she’s got great potential.”
But Yamaguchi also sees stiff competition in Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft, who shared first place on the leader board with Johnson after last Monday’s dance. “I think the front-runners are Melissa, Gilles and Shawn,” she says. “Lil’ Kim and Chuck Wicks are dark horses.” — Lorenzo Benet