“Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” premiered on Monday night, April 30, for the first week of its abbreviated four-week season bringing together 10 sports stars to compete for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy. With so little time for the contestants to compete, no one could breathe easy on night one: the judges gave their scores, and the viewers voted during the show to decide who would be eliminated at the end of the evening. So what happened? Scroll down to find out in our live blog in which we discuss the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.
The 10 athletes who danced in the season premiere included three figure skaters (Adam Rippon, Mirai Nagasu and Tonya Harding), two basketball players (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Arike Ogunbowale), a baseball player (Johnny Damon), a softball player (Jennie Finch) a football player (Josh Norman), a luger (Chris Mazdzer) and a snowboarder (Jamie Alexander). Before they entered the ballroom there was no way to know for sure who would have what it takes and who would fall flat on their face (hopefully not literally). However, four football stars have won the Mirror Ball Trophy in seasons past, which was a good sign for Norman. And two figure skaters have won, which was encouraging for Rippon, Nagasu and Harding.
But the playing field is much more level when all of the competitors have athletic training and thus the conditioning you would need to keep up with the rigorous schedule and physical demands of “DWTS.” So did anyone surprise us with their fancy footwork? Find out below. All times listed are Eastern.
Jeffrey Kare, 7:48pm –Is everyone ready for the show tonight?
Cordell Martin, 7:50pm — Predictions on the first two couples to be eliminated?
Daniel Montgomery, 7:51pm — Probably Kareem, and then maybe Arike or Tonya.
CM, 8:00pm — I hope [Arike] can make it past the first elimination.
CM, 8:01pm — Here we go! Love this opening!
CM, 8:02pm — Do you guys think should have a themed season each spring?
JK, 8:02pm — If they do, next year should be dedicated to former child stars.
DM, 8:03pm — It depends on the theme. Maybe every other season they could do something like that.
DM, 8:05pm — I’m trying to figure out who might be good dancers based on this opening number, but I haven’t got a clue so far.
8:07pm — Make sure you vote for Arike, Cordell, if you want to make sure she sticks around.
Chris Mazdzer and Witney Carson
Salsa (Song: “Mr. Put It Down” by Ricky Martin featuring Pitbull)
DM, 8:08pm — “I wear a speed suit that’s tight in all the wrong places, and I have a fantastic toe point,” says Chris about what makes him a contender in this competition. He already seems to have the right happy-go-lucky personality for the show.
JUDGES — Len Goodman said, “You had style, you had confidence … terrific, well done!” Bruno Tonioli added, “Don’t let your free arm go loose and floppy … But as a first dance, very exciting, very good.” Carrie Ann Inaba concluded, “The choreography was jam-packed … You have so much potential.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Len (7), Bruno (7) = 21 out of 30
CM, 8:13pm — Chris had a solid debut.
DM, 8:14pm — Decent job by Chris, not that expressive in his movements, but he got the job done without tripping over his feet. He’s got potential. I’d say those scores were about right. He’s the kind of guy I wish we had more than four weeks to see his potential to grow as a dancer.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lindsay Arnold
Cha-cha (Song: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered ” by Stevie Wonder)
CM, 8:19pm — I can see Kareem escaping the first elimination.
JK, 8:21pm — Slick outfits, but it looked like the backup dancers were doing all the work.
CM, 8:22pm — Awww Kareem. Yeah. I think he’s going home.
DM, 8:24pm — Lindsay completely danced around him at one point. I admire his spirit, but I think he needed to deliver more than that.
JUDGES — “It was like being in the presence of a monumental golden idol … Very simple, very dignified, and very nicely done,” said Bruno. “Everybody loves” to see this kind of performance, says Carrie Ann. “You absolutely entertained up … but you could get a little groovier.” And Len concluded, “You would get a 10 from Len [based on admiration] … You came out and gave it your all.”
DM, 8:26pm — Lindsay was so sweet, saying, “I could not be more proud of my 71-year-old cancer-surviving legend.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Len (5), Bruno (6) = 17 out of 30
CM, 8:26pm — Interesting. On second thought he could escape elimination.
DM, 8:27pm — They’re being more generous than usual in week one. Not surprising since they only have four weeks so they might even graduate to 10s for someone next week.
Jennie Finch Daigle and Keo Motsepte
Foxtrot (Song: “All-American Girl” by Carrie Underwood)
DM, 8:31pm — Jennie Finch “loves raising my babies.” She’s showing off her life on a Louisiana farm after her retirement from softball. “She already knows how her body works,” says her partner Keo Motsepe about his new student. She’d better do right by him since the poor guy keeps getting eliminated first on this show.
CM, 8:33pm — Jennie is showing some promise.
JK, 8:34pm — Yeah, I thought that was wonderful.
DM, 8:34pm — I agree, promising start, she’s got the steps down but could be a little more expressive.
JUDGES — “That was such a joy to watch … but try to rely on him just a little more, but it was really beautiful.” said Carrie Ann. “Occasionally it went a little bit wild,” added Len. “You did a good job.” And Bruno concluded, “You have a lovely airy” quality. “You have the underlying talent to make it all happen in the next few weeks.”
CM, 8:36pm — Three 7s? Or three 6s?
SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Len (7), Bruno (7) = 21 out of 30
CM, 8:38pm — Good, I thought the judges were going to underscore her.
DM, 8:39pm — I agree, those were the right scores. She was on the same level as Chris.
CM, 8:41pm — Adam and Mirai better bring it.
DM, 8:41pm — I hope so. The judges may be saving some 9 paddles for the heavy-hitters.
CM, 8:42pm — For once being having the pimp slot might be a disadvantage.
DM, 8:43pm — Agreed. Going last means people barely have time to vote for you. But you know people are going to vote for people they haven’t seen because they want to support their faves.
Jamie Anderson and Artem Chigvintsev
Viennese Waltz (Song: “Feeling Good” by Avicii)
DM, 8:44pm — “It feels pretty bad-ass to be a professional snowboarder,” says Jamie during her clip package, but she’s nervous about meeting her partner. Artem tells her about their dance, the Viennese waltz. “Sometimes she gets lost in space,” says Artem about his new pupil. Their partnership sounds like it good off to a rocky start. Fingers crossed for their routine.
JUDGES — Len said, “This was a little bit skippy on occasion, especially when you got in hold … However, I thought you had personality and there was an elegance about your dancing.” Bruno added, “It was like watching Elsa unfrozen … but then you hit an icy patch … You lost your footing.” Carrie Ann concluded, “You’re way more elegant than I think you think you are … You were nervous and you were rushing.”
JK, 8:48pm — Yeah, I thought that was a nice routine.
DM, 8:48pm — A lot better than I was expecting after that clip package. Maybe 6s or 7s for her.
CM, 8:49pm — I think she might go home tonight. She’ll probably get lost in the shuffle.
SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Len (7), Bruno (6) = 19 out of 30
DM, 8:50pm — Wow, Len is in a good mood tonight!
Mirai Nagasu and Alan Bersten
Salsa (Song: “No Excuses” by Meghan Trainor)
DM, 8:56pm — “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t figure skating. It’s always been a part of my life,” says Mirai, reminiscing about her career and her historic triple axel at the Olympics. “I’m a sweater,” she tells Alan, so she gives him gloves to protect him from her clammy hands. she’d be happy if her buddy Adam Rippon wins the Mirror Ball Trophy, but “I’d be happier if I won.”
JUDGES — Bruno said, “That was a spicy, crispy cracker of a salsa … You had a lot of attack … but if you over-attack it you lose the softness of the hips.” Carrie Ann added, “You’re a boss … but I want you to be a little more centered in the dance.” Len concluded, “It was full of vim, vigor, and vitality. The lifts were great, well done!”
JK, 9:01pm — That has to be the best dance of the night so far!
CM, 9:01pm — Alright now, that last lift!
DM, 9:02pm — She got game.
SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Len (8), Bruno (8) = 23 out of 30
DM, 9:03pm — Exciting because she killed it, but there’s room for improvement and room for someone to beat her.
Arike Ogunbowale and Gleb Savchenko
Salsa (Song: “Them Girls” by Whitney Myer)
CM, 9:07pm — Arike! Notre Dame!
DM, 9:08pm — Arike reminisces about her buzzer-beating NCAA victories. She’s the first college athlete on the show and also the youngest contestant on the show this season. “I’m 100-percent out of my element,” says Arike as she trains with her pro partner Gleb Savchenko, especially since Gleb plans to put her in high heels for the routine.
JK, 9:09pm — Another home run!
CM, 9:10pm — That was fun.
DM, 9:10pm — Really solid routine considering how poorly basketball players usually do on the show.
JUDGES — Carrie Ann says, “You have a real ease with yourself on the dance floor … I want to see you in heels … Great job!” Len added, “It was fast paced and energetic. I would have liked to see a bit more hip action.” Bruno concluded, “You really make me want to join in … You had your own individual style and it worked with the salsa,” but she needs to watch her shoulders so she’s not as hunched forward.
DM, 9:13pm — Arike has to take a red-eye so she can do a presentation in claas in the morning.
SCORES — Carrie Ann (7), Len (6), Bruno (7) = 20 out of 30
DM, 9:15pm — Those scores might be enough to keep her in the competition.
CM, 9:15pm — I think she’ll advance. Jamie Anderson is going home for sure.
DM, 9:16pm — Yeah, Jamie looks like she might be in trouble.
Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson
Cha-cha (Song: “Sissy That Walk” by RuPaul)
DM, 9:18pm — “Oh my god, I could throw up I’m so excited,” says Adam before meeting his partner Jenna Johnson. “It was destiny,” he says about his partner, ” because when you jumped I could lift you.” Jenna adds, “Immediately there was a connection and chemistry.”
JK, 9:22pm — That was OUTSTANDING!
CM, 9:22pm — Great song choice and dance for him.
DM, 9:22pm — Round one of Mirai vs. Adam definitely goes to Adam.
JUDGES — Len says, “I think that was good … It was crisp, it was clear. A couple of funny, voguey moments … Well done!” Bruno adds that Adam is “the angel of the ballroom with the hip action of the devil.” Carrie Ann concludes, “You were born to do this show … Fantastic, so polished, so precise.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (8), Bruno (8) = 24 out of 30
DM, 9:24pm — Highest score of the night so far, and very well deserved.
CM, 9:25pm — I’m sensing an Adam vs. Mirai showdown?
DM, 9:27pm — I think so too. The others who could have surprised didn’t really give showstoppers: Jamie, Chris, Jennie.
Johnny Damon and Emma Slater
Foxtrot (Song: “Centerfield” by John Fogerty)
DM, 9:29pm — “Now I’m in full-time daddy mode,” says Johnny Damon about life after Major League Baseball. “I have absolutely no dance experience, but that’s okay,” he says, since he’s been embarrassed plenty of times on national television.
CM, 9:31pm — Johnny could be another David Ross who surprises us by making it far in the competition.
JK, 9:32pm — I thought he was just great!
JUDGES — Bruno says, “Did it all go smoothly? No. But it was a very complicated routine … Was it effortless? No, but it will get better.” Carrie Ann adds, “You’re adorable … and I think that’s going to do you well,” but he needs to watch his shoulders while in hold. Len concludes, “It’s a very technical dance,” but Johnny had problems in hold and he didn’t like the dance when he was out of hold either.
SCORES — Carrie Ann (6), Len (6), Bruno (6) = 18 out of 30
JK, 9:35pm — He just got the beast’s score.
CM, 9:35pm — I think Jamie and Johnny are leaving.
Tonya Harding and Sasha Farber
Foxtrot (Song: “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey)
DM, 9:40pm — “I was the best figure skater in the world, and then I had it taken away from me,” says Tonya in her clip package about being banned from figure skating. “I just wanted to do what I was good at … Being on ‘DWTS,’ I get to perform again.”
DM, 9:41pm — I think there’s a chance Tonya could go home if she doesn’t score really high. I can see people just refusing to vote for her regardless because of her history.
JK, 9:43pm — I thought she just did a pretty solid job. And if I’m not mistaken, they were dancing to that song from “The Prince of Egypt.”
DM, 9:44pm — I actually thought that was quite good. Very natural rhythm and grace on the dance floor. I think she’ll get 7s at least, maybe 8s.
JUDGES — Carrie Ann says, “You are a beautiful dancer. You have something so powerful, and your lines are gorgeous.” Len adds, “I thought it was a charming dance … You shouldn’t be weeping, you should be happy.” Bruno concludes, “I wasn’t expecting you to have such a lyrical quality of movement … Your arms are good, but you’re losing your neck-shoulder placement.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (8), Bruno (7) = 23 out of 30
DM, 9:46pm — They made sure to bring Oscar winner Allison Janney to round out the redemption arc for Tonya. But whatever backlash she gets, I think these scores will probably keep her safe for a week at least.
Josh Norman and Sharna Burgess
Cha-cha (Song: “Finesse” by Bruno Mars)
DM, 9:51pm — “There’s nothing like intimidating another grown man,” says Josh about his approach to competition. I’m not sure how that’ll work in a dance context, but his fun-loving personality and good humor will probably benefit him with viewers.
DM, 9:55pm — I thought that was excellent, though a little rough around the edges. I say he could make top three with Mirai and Adam.
JK, 9:56pm — I thought that was a great way to end the first week of competition.
CM, 9:56pm — Ehh, it was a bit sloppy
JUDGES — Len says, “I thought it was bright and breezy, free and easy.” Bruno adds, “Star quality, charisma, sex appeal — you’ve got it … You have natural musicality, a feel for the dance. You’re the one to watch.” Carrie Ann concludes, “You’ve got the moves, you’ve got style … I’m going to crown you Fly Guy for the night.”
SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (8), Bruno (8) = 24 out of 30
CM, 9:58pm — He definitely has the charisma. Yeah he’s a lock for the finals.
DM, 9:58pm — I thought those were well deserved scores.
1st Couple in Jeopardy: Jamie and Artem
2nd Couple in Jeopardy: Johnny and Emma
3rd Couple in Jeopardy: Tonya and Sasha
The safe couple is … Tonya and Sasha.
ELIMINATED: Jamie Anderson and Johnny Damon
CM, 10:02pm — Told you guys Jamie and Johnny were leaving.
CM, 10:03pm — Team dances next week!
JK, 10:03pm — That should be interesting, especially since Rashad Jennings will be a guest judge.
1. Josh Norman — 24
1. Adam Rippon — 24
3. Tonya Harding — 23
3. Mirai Nagasu — 23
5. Jennie Finch Daigle — 21
5. Chris Mazdzer — 21
7. Arike Ogunbowale — 20
8. Jamie Anderson — 19 (ELIMINATED) 9. Johnny Damon — 18 (ELIMINATED)
10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — 17
Final Predictions Contest Results:
Which star will be eliminated? Jamie Anderson and Johnny Damon
Who will receive the judges’ HIGHEST score? Adam Rippon and Josh Norman
Who will receive the judges’ LOWEST score? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
How many 10s will the judges give out? Zero
Which judge will give the MOST points? Carrie Ann, Len, AND Bruno (70 each)
Which judge will give the FEWEST points? Carrie Ann, Len, AND Bruno (70 each)
Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Monday on ABC. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.