Olympian Simone Biles, Bachelor Nick Viall, Mr. T top latest 'Dancing' cast

Athletes abound in Dancing with the Stars' newest class, with a gymnast, a figure skater, a football player, a bull rider and — in a first — a former Major League Baseball player set to compete.

There's also a Bachelor, a player in a mostly indoor sport, as  Nick Viall trades rose ceremonies for quicksteps as one of 12 celebrities announced Wednesday for Season 24 of the ABC dance competition (March 20, 8 ET/PT).

Olympic champion Simone Biles tops the athletic marquee with five gymnastics medals, including four gold, from the 2016 Rio Games. She's joined by figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, a medalist from two Olympics; NFL running back Rashad Jennings; Bonner Bolton, a model and former Professional Bull Riders competitor; and just-retired catcher David Ross, part of the Chicago Cubs' 2016 World Series championship team.

The field also includes actors, singers and a couple of longtime pop-culture favorites, the Spanish entertainer Charo, a fixture of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, and Mr. T, best known for his starring role on NBC's The A-Team. Are you Team Cuchi-Cuchi or Team I Pity the Fool?

Female celebrities and pro partners are: Biles and Sasha Farber; Kerrigan and Artem Chigvintsev; Charo and Keo Motsepe; singer and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne and Gleb Savchenko; former Beyoncé backup dancer and Glee star Heather Morris and Maksim Chmerkovskiy; and Fifth Harmony's Normani Kordei and Valentin Chmerkovskiy.

Celebrity men and pro partners include: Bolton, who retired from bull riding after being temporarily paralyzed, and Sharna Burgess; Ross and Lindsay Arnold; Jennings and Emma Slater; Viall and Peta Murgatroyd; actor-comedian Chris Kattan, Dancing's  first Saturday Night Live alumnus, and Witney Carson; and Mr. T and Kym Herjavec.

The celebrity athletes say their physical skills won't automatically make them great dancers.

"This is a challenge. We step on the ice as skaters and glide. The steps don't have to be super fast. A dancer would take 10 steps to go the distance we might do in one and make it look like gliding," says Kerrigan, who won Olympic bronze in 1992 and silver in 1994.  "It all seems so easy (watching) from my couch."

Kerrigan asked gold medal skater and Season 6 champ Kristi Yamaguchi how tough the training would be.

"She said, 'You've been through worse. My advice is if you can do it, you've got to do it. It's a ton of fun and you'll love it. But start doing your abs (training) now.' "

Kerrigan, who was hit in the knee before the 1994 Winter Games as part of a plan by the ex-husband of rival  skater Tonya Harding, says there's a lesson to be learned from that experience, her recovery and medal-winning performance.

"We don't realize how strong we all are," she says. "When forced to face something weird, we're capable of putting our minds to something and working hard to accomplish our goals. If you really want something, go for it. You can get there."

Biles was impressed by Olympic teammate Laurie Hernandez, who won the fall season of Dancing. "Laurie was absolutely amazing, phenomenal. She's a natural born dancer."

Despite Hernandez's performance, Biles isn't confident her amazing gymnastic skills will necessarily translate into great dancing.

"I think some of it might help, but some may work against it," because positions and movements can differ, she says. "In gymnastics, we're used to being upright and Sasha told me I needed to lean forward, so it's different."

Intriguing story lines aren't confined to the celebrities. Pro dancers and fan favorites Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd may be facing some sleep issues, as they enter the season as parents of a two-month-old son.

A field with many familiar faces may set the right tone for the times, ABC alternative programming chief Rob Mills says.

"Especially with the mood of the country right now, this is what I'd call a very warm cast," he says. "There's a lot of nostalgia there. The cast will bring smiles to people's faces."

Viewers will see recognizable faces off the dance floor, too, with Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews back hosting and four experienced judges: Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, Brunio Tonioli and Julianne Hough.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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