|'DWTS' Season 16: Who's Star to Beat?|
|By JENNIFER ABBEY||Mar 15, 2013, 6:08 PM|
Twelve stars have been tapped to compete in the new season of "Dancing With the Stars," which begins tonight on ABC. The batch includes athletes, comedians and reality-TV stars, but who is the favorite to win the Mirror Ball trophy?
Try Olympic gold medal winner Aly Raisman, one of the members of the U.S. "Fierce Five" gymnastics team at last summer's London Olympics. Las Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello pegs Raisman to be the early front-runner, giving her odds of 5 to 1 to win.
"She's just 115 pounds of energy. And if she follows someone like Shawn Johnson. Who knows, maybe she can win it all." Avello told ABC News radio. "Now, it is early, but I think she'll be a contender."
It's a flattering comparison for Raisman: Johnson, a gymnast herself, is a former "Dancing With the Stars" champion.
On the other hand, Avello believes comedian Andy Dick and the star of Bravo's "Vanderpump Rules," Lisa Vanderpump, are the most likely celebrities to be bounced early from the competition. Fortunately for them, the first results show doesn't take place until Tuesday, March 26.
Annie Barrett, a longtime "Dancing With the Stars" recapper for Entertainment Weekly, said Raisman is the contestant to beat, and that Dick will be on a short leash with viewers.
"I really don't think many 'Dancing With the Stars' fans will want to see Andy Dick week after week. I really don't," she told ABC News Radio. "I think he's pretty offensive. He's been through a lot of recent troubles, and I just wouldn't want it to become a freak show starring Andy Dick."
Vanderpump's "Vanderpump Rules" castmate, Stassi Schroeder, a server at Sur, the restaurant featured on the series, told ABC News Radio that Vanderpump thinks she'll be voted out early.
"I thought, she would do amazing, but she keeps talking herself down," Schroeder said. "She's like convincing me that she's not going to do well. She's like, 'I'm only going to last one week, maybe two, if I'm lucky if my fans come out and vote for me.'"
Still, the Sur server doesn't believe the self-deprecating Brit, and says "she'll last a while."
Schroeder's on-again, off-again boyfriend Jason "Jax" Taylor feels the same way. "I think she'll last longer just because of her popularity, regardless if she's good or bad," he told ABC News Radio.
And while neither has seen Vanderpump shake a tail feather inside Sur, they're curious to see what Vanderpump's husband, Ken, thinks of his wife's dance moves.
A reality-TV show star has yet to score top prize on "Dancing."
"Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star Rob Kardashian was the closest one, placing second on season 13 with professional partner Cheryl Burke.
Barrett said that recent Super Bowl winner Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens is a wild card in the competition and could use his charm to his advantage. If Jones has the footwork like fellow NFL players Emmitt Smith and Donald Driver, who each took home the Mirror Ball trophy, he could come out a winner.
Figure skater Dorothy Hamill might also be a top contender to beat. The 1976 Olympic gold medalist could follow in the footsteps of fellow Olympic figure skating-champion and "Dancing With the Stars" season six champ Kristi Yamguchi's footsteps to take home the Mirror Ball trophy. Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno took home the grand prize on season four.
"I'm used to being on skates and pushing and gliding this way. I don't do well in shoes. I have spent most of my life in ice skates. I'm sure for [pro partner Tristan MacManus], it must be kind of frustrating because he says, 'Just step forward,' and I go, 'Whoosh,'" Hamill told "Good Morning America" earlier this month.
Athletes including football players, a gymnast and a speed skater have dominated past competitions, winning six of the past 15 seasons and placing second five times.
Dancing contestant Zendaya Coleman, star of the Disney Channel's "Shake It Up," is also a hip-hop dancer, which could help her take home the trophy like it did for Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger on season 10. But the 16-year-old told "Good Morning America" that she doesn't think her dance skills will help her in the competition.
"Some people would assume that because I'm a hip-hop dancer, it'd be easier for me to do this. It's basically doing the exact opposite of what I'm used to," Coleman said.
"So not only am I kind of learning something from the beginning but I have to forget what I already know and what's already naturally in my body."
Musicians-singers are the second-highest placing group of stars in history, after athletes. Starting with former 98 Degrees member Drew Lachey, who won season two, musicians have won three of the competitions and placed second four times. Their experience of dancing on stage during concerts or musical theater performances might give them that extra edge.
This season includes two singers, four actors, four athletes and two reality-TV stars. The ABC competition begins with a two-hour premiere, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Here's a rundown of all of the pairings for the new season:
-- Zendaya Coleman, star of the Disney Channel series "Shake It Up," and her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy.
-- Andy Dick, actor and comedian, and his partner, "DWTS" newcomer Sharna Burgess.
-- Dorothy Hamill, winner of figure skating gold at the 1976 Winter Olympics, and her partner, Tristan MacManus.
-- D.L. Hughley, comedian and actor, and his partner, Cheryl Burke.
-- Jacoby Jones, Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens wide receiver, and his partner, Karina Smirnoff.
-- Wynonna Judd, country music star, and her partner, Tony Dovolani.
-- Sean Lowe, "The Bachelor" star, and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd.
--Victor Ortiz, boxer, and his partner, "DWTS" newcomer Lindsay Arnold.
-- Kellie Pickler, country-music star and former "American Idol" contestant, and her partner, Derek Hough.
-- Ingo Rademacher, "General Hospital" actor, and his partner, Kym Johnson.
-- Aly Raisman, gold-medal-winning gymnast at 2012 Summer Olympics, and her partner, Mark Ballas.
-- Lisa Vanderpump, star of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," and her partner, Gleb Savchenko.
ABC News Radio contributed to this report.