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'Dancing with the Stars': Handicapping the All-Stars

SHAWN JOHNSON, Gymnastics Retirement date: June 3, 2012

Retirement date: June 3, 2012
Won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the balance beam, and a silver medal in the all-around
After a brief comeback attempt, the 20-year-old called the sport “brutal,” and ended up retiring.
Credit: AP

Welcome to “Dancing with the Stars'” 15th season, a.k.a. “The All-Stars,” beginning Monday at 8.

Week one's first dances are the foxtrot and cha-cha-cha. A few basic pointers before I get to my handicaps: Most seasons are represented on this list, but there are some that aren't (the 13th and 14th, for example, but you could also argue that winners from those have a slightly unfair advantage because they were in the training meatgrinder more recently than contestants from earlier seasons).

Season 6 is not represented, and that had probably the single best contestant in “DWTS” history -- winner Kristi Yamaguchi. The first five seasons' winners are here, as is season 8's -- Shawn Johnson, another “DWTS” standout. After that, the list gets spotty. Pamela Anderson? Bristol Palin? Sabrina Bryan (who was voted into this edition by fans -- but she's very good and will go far; see below)?

Let's go the list, with most vulnerable at the top. And remember: Athletes always have the advantage.

- Pamela Anderson (Season 10)/Tristan MacManus: Whaa...?! Gone midway through the season the last time, why is she here again? Three words: “former," "Playboy” “model."

- Bristol Palin (Season 11)/Mark Ballas: Supporters of her mother stuffed Bristol's ballot box the last time around, keeping her in the race long after better dancers had left the floor. It's unlikely she'll get the same advantage -- at least to that degree -- again. She does get Ballas again -- a big bonus.

- Kelly Monaco (Season 1)/ Val Chmerkovskiy: She did win seven years ago, but in the context of this show, those are seven long years. The field is tougher, the training more difficult. She could last longer than this but...

- Melissa Rycroft (Season 8)/Tony Dovolani: Way back in the spring of 2009, the ABC publicity machine had built this huge well of support for Melissa -- dumped by “cad” Jason Mesnick for some other bachelorette. Now, most people don't even remember who she is. But not a bad dancer, by the way.

- Joey Fatone (Season 4)/ Kym Johnson: Season 4 runner-up gets Kym Johnson again -- lucky -- but the field in front is still too strong.

- Kirstie Alley (Season 12)/ Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Hardworking fan favorite who surprised the judges. She wasn't going to win that season (with Hines Ward ahead of her), but she put on a very good show. She's probably middle of this pack however - unless Maks, expected to leave after this, somehow pulls off a miracle.

- Drew Lachey (Season 2)/ Anna Trebunskaya: He hit the jackpot when he got Cheryl Burke as a partner the second season, which, by the way, was an eternity ago.

- Helio Castroneves (Season 5) /Chelsie Hightower: Sure he won Season 5 but he also had Julianne Hough help him do it and she's left the show.

- Sabrina Bryan (Season 5)/Louis van Amstel: The best choice for an All-Star. A real talent who got booted way too early. She was possibility the best dancer of the 5th season -- except viewers forgot to vote for her.

- Gilles Marini (Season 8)/ Peta Murgatroyd: Another standout but he also had Cheryl Burke by his side seven seasons ago.

- Apolo Ohno (Season 4)/Karina Smirnoff: Remember, great athletes, even athletes who haven't competed here in five years, always have the advantage.

- Emmitt Smith (Season 3)/Cheryl Burke: This all comes down to Season three winner Smith and...

- Shawn Johnson (Season 8) / Derek Hough: Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough? You're kidding me, right? This season is over, right now. This combo is unbeatable.

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