It's no secret that athletes tend to do well on Dancing With the Stars — especially active or just recently retired athletes. They are usually in great shape, well known to the public, used to performing under pressure, and disciplined from years of training and competition. This show was built for them.
So how many have won? Here's the lineup after 18 seasons (so far):
• Emmitt Smith (football player), Season 3
• Apolo Anton Ohno (Olympic speed skater), Season 4
• Kristi Yamaguchi (Olympic figure skater), Season 6
• Shawn Johnson (Olympic gymnast), Season 8
• Hines Ward (football player), Season 12
• Donald Driver (football player), Season 14
• Meryl Davis (Olympic ice dancer), Season 18
• You could also add Helio Castroneves of Season 5, if you consider race car drivers to be athletes. Many people do, but there seems to be some debate there.
Not all athletes win, though, even when they seem to fit the criteria.
Figure skater Evan Lysacek seemed like a great bet to win Season 10, but he had to settle for second place, behind Nicole Scherzinger. Shawn won Season 8 but she took second to Melissa Rycroft on All-Stars. Amy Purdy just took second to another athlete, Meryl Davis, on Season 18. Football player Jacoby Jones took third on Season 16. Jerry Rice and Warren Sapp both took second place on their respective seasons. Hope Solo just missed the Finals of Season 13 and Ron Artest was actually the first one eliminated. Keyshawn Johnson was the first one to leave on Season 17 as well.
Just being an athlete alone isn't enough, although being an active/recent Olympian or football player tends to increase your odds. You also have to have a big fan base, and a strong connection with the audience through your personality, your story, or your partnership with your assigned pro. Hopefully you have all of those on your checklist. But even if you do, like Amy Purdy, you may still lose to someone who can claim the same. DWTS Season 18 started with five pro athletes and it wasn't too shocking to see two end up facing off in the end, but the spring season also lost two of those five athletes (Diana Nyad, Sean Avery) as the very first eliminations.
Looking at the list of 18 winners to date, there are more athletes than any other group. We also have four actor/actresses (Kelly Monaco, Jennifer Grey, J.R. Martinez, Amber Riley), four singers/performers (Drew Lachey, Donny Osmond, Nicole Scherzinger, Kellie Picker), a model/TV host (Brooke Burke), and a reality star (Melissa Rycroft).
But they are all more than just their job descriptions. J.R. wasn't just an actor, he was an Army veteran who was severely burned while serving in Iraq. Amber was an actress as well as a singer/performer. And you can't really separate anyone's win from his or her pro partner since the couples work as a team.
Still, keep your eyes on any active athletes cast for the fall 2014 Season 19. They may just be our new Finalists! (Or they could go home first.)