What was the first thing that went through Apolo Anton Ohno's mind when he learned he might be paired with Karina Smirnoff on Dancing with the Stars All-Stars?
"I went, 'Hmm. She's amazing, but isn't she really crazy?' I really did say that," Ohno tells TVGuide.com. "And the best part is, this was the exact answer: 'Yes, but she has a heart of gold and she's amazing. And we think you two will have really great chemistry.'"
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And now? "We're in an uphill battle here. She has no heart, there's no chemistry."
"And I'm crazy," Smirnoff adds.
All joking aside, the two former champs (him for Season 4, her for Season 13) are getting along swimmingly, even if Ohno can't remember basic cha-cha steps for their first dance Monday. "I told him to eat more fish. It's got Omega 3's that's really good for your memory," Smirnoff says. "But seriously, usually I'm the one who says, 'Come on, let's do it again. Put your phone down,' to my partners. But with Apolo, he's as enthusiastic, if not more, as I am. I come in to the studio and he's got his heels on, practicing the dance. The other day, I was driving to the studio ... and I see Apolo doing locksteps down [the street] toward the studio. I was like, 'Wow! This guy is awesome.'"
Both know they'll have their work cut out for them this season, going up against a cast that includes five other former celeb champs and three runners-up. So what do they think of their competition? "We are Oh, Yes. They are Oh, No," Smirnoff says.
Check out Ohno and Smirnoff's scouting report below:
Dancing with the Stars All-Stars pairs revealed!
Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson
The couple finished second to Ohno and Julianne Hough in Season 4.
Ohno says: Joey's very talented. The guy comes from a boy band. That's what he did for a living — choreography and dance and sing and put it all together. I told him [after I won] that I was happy I beat him because of that. He's like on his fifth dance already. I remember when he did his freestyle — he was choreographing the whole thing.
Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke
Smith and Burke won Season 3.
Smirnoff says: Emmitt is gonna be in this competition until the very end. He's got the biggest fan base that you can possibly think of. ... Everyone loves him and he did amazing when he won. All 12 are couples to beat, but they are definitely one of the top ones.
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani
The Bachelor alum was a last-minute replacement for an injured Nancy O'Dell and finished third on Season 8 with Dovolani.
Smirnoff says: Melissa can dance really well. She's a natural. And she's gorgeous. I've known Tony since I was, like, 16 years old and he's great. Do we like them? Yes, on a personal level. No, on a competitive level! I wish they were mean so we could actually hate them!
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas
Probably the most controversial cast member, Palin finished third on Season 11 with Ballas.
Ohno says: She's totally different now. I think it'll surprise people.
Smirnoff says: No matter what people say — like maybe Bristol wasn't the best dancer, but she was the most improved dancer of that season. So on this show, there's the likability factor, the skill, but also the journey. Who has the biggest journey, the biggest arc of learning how to dance? I think Bristol had it. I'm excited to see what she does now. She had some memorable dances — the monkey dance. Some people can pull that off.
Drew Lachey and Anna Trebunskaya
The 98 Degrees singer won Season 2 with Burke, and Trebunskaya has been runner-up twice, including to Lachey.
Ohno says: Drew's gonna do well. He's hungry, I can tell, and I love it. I love the competitiveness. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got. He didn't do as much [dancing in 98 Degrees], but he's won this.
Smirnoff says: Anna's a fantastic teacher, so Drew's in great hands. Drew had one of the most memorable freestyles on the show. If we take Drew out before the final in the back alley of CBS [Studios, where the show films], that might help us.
Dancing with the Stars All-Stars cast revealed! And there's a twist!
Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough
Johnson won Season 8 with Ballas, and Hough is a three-time champ.
Ohno says: The only other people who have experienced this intense type of competition with this kind of training are Shawn and Emmitt. ... I love Shawn. She dances incredibly. She's kind of like Joey. She learns dances really fast.
Smirnoff says: She does. Why don't you learn them really fast?
Ohno says: I don't know. I'm just pounding the fish.
Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
The pair finished second in Season 12.
Ohno says: I think Kirstie and Maks are an underdog. They were their first season too. I don't think a lot of people predicted at the beginning for them to go that far and I'm not gonna underestimate them.
Pamela Anderson and Tristan MacManus
Anderson finished sixth on Season 11 with Damian Whitewood, and MacManus placed fifth with Nancy Grace on Season 13.
Ohno says: That's a very interesting pair. I think Pam was another one who went further than some expected. Sixth place is kind of deep. She's got a good shot.
Sabrina Bryan and Louis van Amstel
Bryan finished seventh on Season 7 with Ballas, and van Amstel finished in third place on Season 9 with Kelly Osbourne.
Smirnoff says: The rumor is that they look really strong. And they only found out they were on the show three weeks ago [from the fan vote].
Ohno says: Sabrina's like a pro dancer. They're on their 11th dance. She's on next season's. She and Joey were on the tour and Vegas, so they also have that advantage.
Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower
Castroneves won Season 5 with Hough, and Hightower finished fourth on Season 8 with Ty Murray.
Ohno says: I talked to him the other day and he's been pushing it really hard. He's another athlete competitor. One thing that surprised me is he's a lot skinnier than I thought. I didn't know he was that skinny. His legs were really skinny.
Smirnoff says: I think Helio lost weight. But you sound jealous.
Ohno says: My legs are huge. I feel seams ripping. My jeans ripped one day.
Smirnoff says: They did rip. [And there was] no other piece of clothing underneath the jeans. That is disturbing.
Ohno says: That's not disturbing; it's efficient. It's eco-friendly. Fewer clothes to wash, less water to use.
Dancing: Sabrina Bryan wins viewers' choice spot
Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy
Monaco won Season 1 with Alec Mazo, and Chmerkovskiy finished 10th last season with Sherri Shepherd.
Smirnoff says: She was the very first champion we've ever had and that commands respect. I think she almost has the most to prove because the show was so different then.
Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd
Marini finished second on Season 8 with Burke, and Murgatroyd won last season with Donald Driver.
Ohno says: Gilles is taking this seriously, like really, really seriously. ... When I saw him, I couldn't believe it. I'm not scared — don't get me wrong — but I was just like, "Wow!" He's one of the best celebrities who's ever done the show.
And how about that final pair?
Ohno says: The guy with the squirrel tail on his chin? What's his name? He's a figure skater or something?
Smirnoff says: Yeah, Anton something. He might be OK. He might be accustomed to a lot of spandex because that's what he wears in his profession too — really, really tight. I think he should shave his head. The past three winners were bald guys and the only bald guy this season is Emmitt. I think, why jinx it? ... I also want him to be an orangutan with a red butt. Maybe just the butt part.
Ohno says: I don't even think this is related to the show. It's her personal fantasy. She's got a weird deal.
Dancing with the Stars premieres Monday at 8/7c on ABC.
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