By People Staff
Updated September 05, 2008 12:00 AM
Credit: Karen Neal/ABC

After a season away from the ballroom, Maksim Chmerkovskiy is excited to be hoofing again on Dancing with the Stars–especially with his new partner, Olympic volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor.

“When we come out that first week and do our dances, everybody is going to be surprised,” Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE Thursday at Nylon Magazine’s TV issue party at the Tropicana Bar in Hollywood.

Since the Olympian’s return from Beijing, the pair have been training for the first week’s dual dance of the fox trot and mambo. Said Chmerkovskiy of his partner: “She has to learn both sides of the spectrum. She’s doing amazing.”

Chmerkovskiy is also impressed by May-Treanor’s focus. “God, thank you for giving me somebody with an unlimited attention span,” laughed Chmerkovskiy, who was last partnered with Spice Girl Melanie Brown. “Mel B. had the attention span of 1.3 seconds but this one can go for hours.” Besides her work ethic, Chmerkovskiy says the two-time gold medalist may even give pro Edyta Sliwinska a run in the skimpy costume department. “She came to the practice in sweatpants, pulled them down, and had booty shorts,” Chmerkovskiy recalled. ” I obviously noticed. She said, ‘What? This is more than what I normally wear.’ Her leg is the same as season 2’s Stacy Keibler. Watch out! A lot of legs, and they are gorgeous.”

In fact, May-Treanor’s competitors are already sizing her up as the one to beat. “I know that she’s got this drive and this force that’s unstoppable,” fellow contestant Kim Kardashian told PEOPLE at the event, “and I think that she’s got a great fan base.”

Chmerkovskiy, who took last season off to rest and rehab, has his own dedicated Dancing fan base who are happy he’s back. “I think coming back this season is perfect timing for me,” Chmerkovskiy said. “It was a risky move. I am happy to say that it worked perfectly for me. I had my rest, took care of my body.” –Scott Huver

Karen Neal/ABC