PureDWTS Season 23 – All 24 Olympic Athletes Ever To Do DWTS, Ranked From Worst to Best

So with the Olympics in Rio drawing to a close this coming Sunday (and the pros starting to meet their partners later this week), there’s obviously been speculation that we’re going to see some Olympians on the show this season – seems like Ryan Lochte & Simone Biles are the two most talked-about when it comes to casting rumors.  Which got the Pure Angels thinking about all the previous Olympians we’ve seen on the show, and how well (or not well…) they did.  So why not take a look back at every Olympian (from both the summer AND winter games) that’s ever done DWTS, and see how they stack up?

The main rankings are mine, but Heidi, Vogue, & I all had slightly different rankings when it came to the top 10 – so you can see their individual top 10’s at the bottom.  I’ve included videos of a few of the dances we mention, to jog memories – lord knows ours needed jogging from time to time 😯

Interesting patterns? Gymnasts and skaters seemed to fare the best, and tennis players and boxers tended not to leave much of an impression on any the three of us.  I think we all universally agreed on at least the bottom 2 on the list – they were THAT bad 🙁

24.) Hope Solo (soccer) & Maks Chmerkovskiy, season 13

Court: I don’t think there has been a more ill-matched couple ever before in DWTS history – these two brought out the absolute worst in each other. The dancing wasn’t the worst we’ve seen (though it wasn’t great, either), but it just got physically uncomfortable watching these two at each other’s throats week after week. And we were subjected to it for 9 long weeks. Then, when the season was over, Hope took one last parting shot a few months later and accused Maks of physically assaulting her in her autobiography. Nice. Forgive me if I’m not at all surprised at some of her more unsportsmanlike behavior in the Rio Olympics…what a dumpster fire of a human being.

Heidi: I hated that season because they were paired with each other – it was just so horrible to watch and it wasn’t all Hope, unfortunately. And I say that while desperately wishing Maks would come back and replace his baby brother. 🙂 This season was also the most blatant example of why you should NOT pimp someone to keep them longer than their actual shelf life – said couple starts believing they are better dancers than they actually are and when the judges finally get real (as they always do, once the serious cannon fodder is gone) they lose their minds in anger, claiming they danced better this week than ever and they should be getting 10s and yadda yadda yadda.

Vogue: Mismatched indeed. I was so disappointed in these two. Both brought out the worst in each other. I was such a huge fan of Maks before this season. I am now again, but, it took me awhile to get over everything we witnessed. With that said, I really enjoyed a few of their dances when they were able to concentrate.

23.) Lolo Jones (track & field/bobsled) & Keo Motsepe, season 19

Court: Dear god, I don’t think I’ve seen a more spectacular self-destruction than Lolo awkwardly ripping into her own cha-cha while the judges, Keo, and Tom just stood there in uncomfortable awe. She was just so…INTENSE. And even though it wasn’t the worst week 1 cha-cha we’ve ever seen, she made it 10X worse with the comments after. The dance gods were merciful when they sent her home the next night – I don’t think I could have taken another week of this.

Heidi: I think I actually blocked this out of my mind because…trauma.

Vogue: I remember loving how tall and beautiful she was and they looked great together as a couple, but, that was it.

22.) Martina Navratilova (tennis) & Tony Dovolani, season 14

Court: I just never got the impression that Martina felt comfortable dancing – she seemed to shoot Tony confused glances quite a bit when she was performing, and that jive outfit he put her in was just GADAWFUL.

Heidi: Jesus god…the aqua colored mesh thingamabob?? That doesn’t even work on a 25 year old?? Pass the bleach please. Other than that…Martina struck me as a very nice woman, and perhaps her low placement is due more to Tony than anything she did wrong. She certainly isn’t at Lolo/Hope level of disaster.

Vogue: Being I’m an avid fan to tennis, I always had the most utmost respect for Martina as a competitor. But, omg, I felt like Tony didn’t do her justice at all. It also didn’t help that he designed the worst costumes everrrrr in Dancing With The Stars history for her.

21.) Clyde Drexler (basketball) & Elena Grinenko, season 4

Court: The first instance I can recall where there was a height difference that was significant enough to pose problems – and also the first instance I can recall where the celeb didn’t seem terribly invested in the show and was just there to collect a paycheck.

Vogue: I can’t remember these two?

Heidi: I’m with Vogue – drawing a blank.

20.) Monica Seles (tennis) & Jonathan Roberts, season 6

Court: I literally remember nothing about this partnership.  Ummm…Heidi? Thoughts?

Heidi: Drawing a blank, dude. I just remember her being uncomfortable, but nothing specific.

Vogue: Same here, Heidi.

19.) Natalie Coughlin (swimming) & Alec Mazo, season 9

Court: The only dance of theirs that I remember was their rumba, and the only two things I remember about it are Alec dramatically pulling a piece of fabric off Natalie at the beginning and the fact that the song was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. I vaguely recall that Natalie always seemed to have a pained/uncomfortable expression on her face, and Alec was about as interesting as watching paint dry. Was this the season with 5 bajillion couples?

Heidi: Yep, there were a bajillion, made worse by the presence of Donny Osmond and his crazy minions. 🙂  I seem to recall thinking that Natalie danced well enough to be a contender but Alec couldn’t deliver on either personality, chemistry or choreography – he was a tad too dark, really. And Natalie needed someone with more light – she’s one (I think, if I’m remembering correctly) that Derek probably could have taken a lot farther…well, that’s true for most women, ain’t it? 😉

Vogue: I don’t remember these two, except I thought Alec was such a doll and she was beautiful. In fact, she reminds me of Edyta.

18.) Floyd Mayweather (boxing) & Karina Smirnoff, season 5

Heidi: Drawing a blank on this one…

Court: I vaguely remember him being a tad cocky, and a fairly early out his season.  But that’s it.

Vogue: I seriously need to go back and rewatch the earlier seasons because I only vaguely remember these two.

17.) Dorothy Hamill (figure skating) & Tristan MacManus, season 16

Court: I think the most disappointing thing about this partnership was that it was over before it really even got started. Everybody (particularly the Tristan fans) got so hyped up that he finally “got a contender”, then she got injured and had to withdraw the second week. Part of me still kinda wonders if Tristan’s path on DWTS might have been different if he & Dorothy had actually managed to stick around and maybe make it to the finale. Bah, prolly not.

Heidi: I seem to recall thinking that they were not living up to the hype even before she got hurt. I remember being excited, then disappointed with this partnership. I just don’t think that – as totally adorable as he is – Tristan had the choreography chops to really make it on the US version of DWTS. And I think he admitted as much. But from a personality stand point I think they were good together.

Vogue: I put these two in my Top 10. They didn’t get to dance as many dances since she got injured, but, for what we saw, they were beautiful….both in and out. I loved them so much.

16.) Misty May-Treanor (volleyball) & Maks Chmerkovskiy, season 7

Court: Another potentially promising partnership cut short by injury.  I still get a little nauseated when I think of that video of her snapping her Achilles while rehearsing her jive with Maks 🙁

Heidi: Once in a while I wonder if Brooke still would have won if Misty hadn’t gotten hurt – she was a really good dancer, as I recall, and this was before Maks’ choreography seemed to consist of a lot of walking. I think she was a contender and she was a really nice person to boot. Then I think…if Brooke could beat Lance and Warren, she would certainly beat Misty…but it would have been Misty in the top three over one of the guys.

Vogue: Too bad they left so early. I remember thinking in the beginning they had potential.

15.) Evander Holyfield (boxing) & Edyta Sliwinska, season 1

Court: Evander was kind of the original “big teddy bear” figure on DWTS – a big, tough dude that wasn’t afraid to cut loose and show us his fun side.  Not a stellar dancer and pretty heavy on his feet, but still a fun to watch, affable guy.

Vogue: I can’t remember a lot on this season and all the dances, but, oh how I loved Edyta straight up. She is the reason I got hooked on this show.

14.) Sugar Ray Leonard (boxing) & Anna Trebunskaya, season 12

Court: I remember him being unexpectedly soft-spoken but he had an awesome smile.  Wasn’t the best dancer on his season, wasn’t the worst – seemed to get along decently well with Anna.  I don’t recall any of their dances being super exciting, though.

Vogue: I remember being so excited that a legend like him would do DWTS and Hubby was really excited. They didn’t last long, but I remember him being such a class act about it.

Heidi: Ah yes, that smile was wonderful.

13.) Maurice Greene (track & field) & Cheryl Burke, season 7

Court: From the little I can remember, Mo (was that his nickname? I feel like it was) seemed like a willing pupil and generally got along well with Cheryl – not the best dancer, but he did improve.  I think he probably faded into the woodwork a bit next to Warren Sapp, who had a much bigger personality that season. I remember Cheryl that season a bit more than Mo, though, as that was her frumpy season – she had put on a bit of weight and I felt like none of her costumes were terribly flattering. She also seemed uninvested. Was that after her engagement to Matt Lawrence got called off?

Heidi: Don’t remember much about Cheryl’s relationships at that point, but I do recall her seeming rather uninvested.  What I remember from Maurice is that this was the very first season for the team dances and he was on Brooke and Derek’s team.  That might still be my favorite team dance of all time – but Mo was definitely the weak link in the team.  Isn’t he the one who was going around saying “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” all the time?

Vogue: I don’t remember these two at all.

Court: YES!!!! That was him.  Then everyone glommed onto that phrase that season, from Cody Linley to Susan Lucci.  It got old…fast.

12.) Apolo Ohno (speed skating) & Karina Smirnoff, season 15

Court: Maybe it was the fact that they never seemed to recapture the magic of his original season with Julianne, or maybe it was the undercurrent of awkward sexual tension that seemed to permeate their partnership, but I just remember really struggling to support them that season. They had some great dances (his “Fever” foxtrot stands out in my mind, as does his quickstep and his Michael Jackson rumba) and some not-so-great dances (the mistake-riddled hip-hop, the weird circus-themed jazz) – but nothing that really stands the test of time in the DWTS history books, good or bad.

Heidi: Yeah, I think Apolo – and many of the men that season – suffered tremendously from the high expectations of their original seasons and most of them couldn’t surpass the original magic of when they were on the show. Only Shawn truly did that – and even that took a couple weeks to get going. Apolo never really got going with Karina, I don’t think.

Vogue: I liked them, but, they didn’t seem to have a magic like when he was with Julianne.

11.) Louie Vito (snowboarding) & Chelsie Hightower, season 9

Court: They weren’t the most spectacular couple and got lost in the shuffle quite a bit that season, but I remember  thinking that these two looked kind of adorable together, and Louie actually wasn’t a bad dancer.  They were so little, though 😛

Vogue: I remember these two really surprising me every week. I didn’t think I’d like Louie, but, he worked really hard. They were funny and cute.

Heidi: The mini-couple. 🙂

10.) Evan Lysacek (figure skating) & Anna Trebunskaya, season 10

Court: They gave us some great dances (his paso doble, Argentine tango, and futuristic cha-cha all stand out in my mind), but this couple seemed to take a bizarre nosedive come finale week – and they just altogether seemed to stop trying by finale night. Did Anna have kind of a meltdown at some point? Am I misremembering? Twenty-three seasons in, stuff starts to get fuzzy…

Heidi: Evan decided, during finale week, that he was the one in charge and he was demanding that Anna change the choreo. I think Anna was already stressed out from having to come up with a freestyle for an Olympian and then Evan added to it by being a jackass.  The end result was a disastrous freestyle (which you can’t afford when going up against Nicole and Derek) and a less than stellar second dance – which I can’t even remember now. I do remember the freestyle being…bad.

Vogue: I remember loving them and hoping they’d win. They had some difficult weeks, but, When they were “on”, they were really on.

9.) Aly Raisman (gymnastics) & Mark Ballas, season 16

Court: I said it on Twitter the other night, but I’ll say it again here – Aly’s dancing was always just so bland to me. She had pretty good technique (although I remember thinking her hips were a bit wonky) and always had a lot of energy, but her dancing just seemed so cold & clinical to me. Like she was afraid to drop her game face and really have fun. I always have a hard time when describing her performances that season – there wasn’t anything really WRONG with them, but they just didn’t feel right, either.

Heidi: Yeah, I would agree on all counts.  I do wonder, if given a second chance like Shawn was, that we would see a much different dancer.  I have to believe we would – the structure of the gym being reduced and some maturity could have the same result as it did for Shawn.

Vogue: I remember wishing she had more expression. She seemed really nervous and like she really didn’t want to be there. I too wonder how she would have approached the show now versus then.

8.) Nastia Liukin (gymnastics) & Derek Hough, season 20

Court: I partially blame the politics of season 20 for these two not ranking higher – I feel like TPTB went out of their way to make Nastia look like a total bitch, which I don’t think was the case at all.  There was also the added complication of Derek trying to do Spring Spectacular on Broadway concurrently, having to use Henry & Sasha as a stand-in, and then him getting injured. But all that aside – these two actually gave us some really, really good dances. I still love their Viennese waltz with Len.

Vogue: They were one of my favorite couples. They had such show stopping numbers. It was sad when the judges didn’t give them the scores they deserved. It felt so rigged.

Heidi: Derek and Nastia working on a time crunch really forced Derek into some more traditional choreography that was very well executed, as opposed to his more out of the box choreography that we see when he has more time. But their dances were beautiful. I loved the subway number and the dance with Len – those are the two that are at the forefront of my brain.  Of course, this partnership also revealed Henry to be a douche canoe and Sasha to be a total sweetheart – revealing partnership all the way around.

7.) Charlie White (ice dancing) & Sharna Burgess, season 18

Court: Another partnership that was kinda marred by politics during their season, but Charlie is probably one of the top 5 most talented male celebs they have ever had on the show. Sharna’s choreography was on-point that season, Charlie handled it well, and they seemed to really get along well – now if only the producers had resisted the urge to tinker and push Meryl for the win at Charlie’s expense…

Vogue: I just loved these two and every single dance. It was a huge disappointment to see the judges downing them so much and yet, giving all the props to Maks and Meryl. This season felt so rigged.

Heidi: Yeah, Charlie should have been top three with Amy and Meryl, but they just couldn’t resist tinkering and keeping him down. Had to keep the showmance front and center. Ugh. The choreography for Charlie (and Amy) was just so far superior to anything Maks gave Meryl that it was just…I want to say unfair, but you know there is no “fair” on this show. If they weighted the scores based on difficulty kinda like they do for gymnastics at the Olympics, Meryl would have ended in third place, score-wise.

6.) Amy Purdy (Paralympic snowboarding) & Derek Hough, season 18

Vogue: My very favorite of the Olympians was Derek and Amy. I was so touched and inspired by her story. Not only that, she was just an amazing dancer. I love people who can defy the odds and never give up. It takes an inner strength that not all people have. She was just beautiful and I loved her fashion sense as well. What’s more, I loved how Derek embraced the challenge. He also set the bar high for other Pros in the future that they should never assume their celebrities weakness(es) are a handicap or to write them off.

Heidi: Good point, Vogue. I also seem to recall that some pros said that Amy didn’t belong on the show. I guess she showed them!!  I loved the excitement of this pair – finding out what dance style they had and then waiting with baited breath to see how they would pull it off. I remember clearly their Jazz on the table (Emmy nominated) and the quickstep on the running blades – amazing! Their contemporary was also fabulous – most of their dances were just great. Derek really did rise to the occasion. I would bet that he was never more creatively stimulated by a partnership.

Court: I had to roll my eyes when I saw so many labeling Amy as a “ringer” as soon as her name was announced as a cast member – in what universe does a double amputee with no previous dance experience trump an Olympic gold medal ice dancer in the ringer race??? Oh wait – all of Derek’s partners are ringers, if you’re a fan of the Fam. But seriously, though – Derek may really know how to make his partners shine, but he can’t do it with an unwilling partner – so I have to credit all of his partners (including Amy) for meeting him in the middle and putting in the effort to succeed on the show.  And Amy had much more of an uphill battle than most people – I remember these two really struggling to accommodate the unique needs of her prostheses in the beginning, and ballroom was always an Achilles heel for them, since there was no way for Amy to express rise & fall.  But they still managed to give us some great dances – loved the jazz on the table and their contemporary.  Had the Maksyl propaganda machine not kicked into overdrive in the end, I think Amy could have possibly taken the MBT that season.

5.) Shawn Johnson (gymnastics) & Mark Ballas, season 8

Court: I think the only thing preventing me from putting these two higher is the fact that it seemed to take awhile for Shawn to really come out of her shell – the first standout dance of she & Mark’s from that season that I remember is their Aladdin quickstep, and I want to say that was fairly late in the season.  Up until that point, all the talk had been “Gilles, Gilles, Gilles!” and Shawn had been quietly improving. But she peaked at the right time – I think she & Mark’s freestyle is what tipped the scales in their favor, especially with Gilles’ freestyle kinda falling flat.

Vogue: I agree, Court. She didn’t start really coming around until later in the season. When she finally did, she was really good.

Heidi: They were sweet together, for sure – remember, he threw her a prom. 🙂  Shawn kind of exemplifies the differences between Mark and Derek too – Mark excels with the youngsters (although Derek did fab with Bindi) and made her comfortable; while Derek took the more adult Shawn and really put together some great dances.

4.) Meryl Davis (ice dancing) & Maks Chmerkovskiy, season 18

Court: I really have a hard time praising this pairing, because I found just about everything they did to be generally shady – from the fauxmance, to the claims that their dances “were going to be like nothing ever seen on the show before!”, to the generally rather edgy rehearsals where Maks would beg for Meryl’s help with choreo.  But I will say that Meryl was one of the most talented female dancers we’ve ever had on the show, and generally looked really good doing whatever Maks threw at her.  Just wish he had upped the ante with the choreography – because right now, the only dance of theirs that really sticks out in my mind was their tango, and that’s only because Fam fans seem to love to claim that any tango done after it was a direct copy of it. *eye roll*

Heidi: And for the reasons you mention, Meryl is much farther down my list, below Amy, Charlie and Shawn with Mark. I call Meryl the greatest waste of an Olympian, perhaps ever. They relied so heavily on their showmance (and are still feeling the repercussions to this day from the less stable faction of the fandom) when it was SO unnecessary – decent choreography and her name recognition in addition to her training were going to get either her or Charlie the MBT. Perhaps, knowing that Charlie couldn’t/wouldn’t do the showmance route, they used that to get a leg up on him and his (far superior) choreographer? Who knows. And, these days, who cares? Seriously, we should have gotten dances of the caliber of Shawn/Derek – yet they didn’t even come close.

Vogue: I loved these two, but, I didn’t think they deserved to win this season. I also remember loving her with Val for the switch up. In fact, that was my favorite dance from her that season.

3.) Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating) & Mark Ballas, season 6

Court: I remember just being in absolute AWE of these two that season – they just seemed to work together so well.  Looking back at their dances now and comparing them to dances we’ve seen in recent seasons, though, I don’t think they’d stand the test of time – but Kristi was the first contestant I remember that could do no wrong.  Everything Mark threw at her, she handled well, and handled with a smile.  I give these two props for just having a ton of synergy.

Vogue: Simply put, they were amazing!

Heidi: Much like “Save a Horse” freestyle no longer stands the test of time, neither do Kristi/Mark (or Shawn/Mark) dances – but they were fantastic for their place in the history of the show. The dance that sticks out in my mind as awesome was their jive. That’s the thing about most Olympians too – they have a serious work ethic.

2.) Apolo Ohno (speed skating) & Julianne Hough, season 4

Heidi: I loved Apolo and Julianne. Not only did she really introduce exciting choreography into this show, but their chemistry and relationship was very endearing.  Their freestyle – looking back now – wasn’t that “special” but I still love it to this day. Back then it was new and exciting.

Court: I feel like Apolo was the first “real” Olympian the show ever had – one that was a gold medalist, was currently relevant, and was wildly popular with the viewing audience even before the show.  I think he & Julianne really kinda set the bar for just how awesome Olympians could be on the show – and every (successful) Olympian that followed him on the show seemed to follow a similar model with their partners as he did with Julianne. And I credit them for making hip-hop on DWTS a “thing” – I can’t recall any other couples up until that point that had really been daring enough to attempt it.

Vogue: These two were unstoppable. So clever and creative every week.

1.) Shawn Johnson (gymnastics) & Derek Hough, season 15

Court: I feel like we got to see the “fully realized” Shawn here – she had shed some of the shyness I remember from season 8, and her dancing talent combined with Derek’s choreographic talent seemed to be a match made in heaven.  It was that combination of their skills that helped the show win its first Emmy for outstanding choreography – two of his routines with Shawn were part of his nomination package.  I generally wish that the show would have cut down on some of the chaos that the All-Star season brought with it (the out-of-control themes, twists, etc.), but these two were a real bright spot for me.

Heidi: It’s funny, because the first couple weeks of this season were only so-so for Shawn and Derek – possibly even up to the rule breaking quickstep. But once Derek and Shawn decided they were going to go for it, it was amazing the whole way. And you could tell from the way Len was reacting to them (negatively) that they were set to ruin some master plan the producers had. Some of their dances are among my all time favorites – the Mambo, the Knight Rider Bhangra being at the very top for that season.

Vogue: They were so amazing. They left my jaw on the floor almost every week. I’ll never forget their very first dance and how they flew.

Heidi: As many might suspect, my top 10 differs slightly from Courtney’s although I’ve added my thoughts above. Here are my top 10:
1.) Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough
2.) Apolo Ohno and Julianne Hough
3.) Amy Purdy and Derek Hough
4.) Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas (suffers only from being so long ago before the choreo got really inventive)
5.) Charlie White and Sharna Burgess
6.) Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy
7-8 Tie.) Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough and Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas
9.) Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya
10.) Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas

Vogue: Below are my very favorites in order. Though I couldn’t stop at 10, so I added one more because I loved Anna and Evan so much too.

1.) Amy & Derek
2.) Shawn & Derek
3.) Apolo & Julianne
4.) Kristi & Mark
5.) Nastia & Derek
6.) Charlie & Sharna
7.) Meryl & Maks
8.) Shawn & Mark
9.) Apolo & Karina
10.) Dorothy & Tristan
11.) Evan & Anna