Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Hey everyone!

Hope you had a great summer! My summer was very productive. I feel like when I put in a lot of work and I get exhausted and tired and whatever, the outcome is so satisfying that it feels worth it. And now — here we go again!

I am very excited to be paired with Hope. I sort of made a joke during the World Cup about wanting her to be my partner. I was like, 'Hey Hope, how about you do Dancing with the Stars?' I thought she'd be a good candidate. The media picked it up and blew it up. But what do you know? She said yes and I got exactly what I wanted!

I know a lot of people are picking us as early favorites. That's very flattering to hear, but the reality is that there are lots of potentially great dancers. And it's not just about dancing. It's a combination of the work ethic, the dedication and the connection with fans. Everything has to come together. Hope's  giving me everything that I want. All I want is her undivided attention and then it's on me to me to bring out the best in her.

Hope is doing great! We have the Viennese waltz and it's coming along well. We're running through with the music now. She's impressed me so much and the question really is: What's not impressive about her? She walks in as the best goalkeeper on the planet and to be that good at what she does, she has to possess certain qualities, but she also had to develop certain physical attributes. She's muscular and tough and very stocky — I mean that as the best compliment possible for a soccer player and not as a derogatory comment. She's fit and sharp. She prides herself on that and on being the best. But what makes her an amazing goalkeeper is making it difficult for her to dance. She has to move now! What impressed me the most about her was that I walked into the room a couple days later and she's in a skirt doing the Viennese waltz. She is into it and giving it her all and is improving every day. I hope we do well the first week, but I don't want people to have the idea that she was always great. I can picture people going, "We predicted you would be good, so this is not surprising." But the fact is that nobody saw the beginning stages. I'm lucky I get to witness certain things and her progress that people don't because they're not in rehearsals with us.

Everyone knows the last time I was partnered with an athlete, it was with Misty and we had to withdraw when she got injured. If you don't know, Hope has had shoulder surgery before. It was an unfortunate injury for her, but we're not overly concerned with it. If you constantly worry about injuries, you will make no progress. We are just concentrating on working hard and putting the routine together.

I am super excited that Val is joining the cast this year! I wouldn't say that it's about time, but it's the right time for him. Everyone's asked me over the years why he hasn't joined yet. He was still competing and competing seriously. He's the best in the world. He's won every major title there is to win. For him, it was like, "What do you want to do? Keep chasing that third world title or cross over and explore other opportunities?" I'm very excited to see where he can go from here. He's amazing at everything — dancing, music rapping. He's a great lyricist. I want him to explore everything about his talents. I could have made him quit competing a long time ago, but that would not have been right. Because it was his personal decision, there are no "what if's." I know the show is probably going to play up the "sibling rivalry," but there is no such thing between us. We're not going to give them anything to work with. We've never competed against each other and we never will. We are, however, competitive. We go at it on the basketball court all the time. But the show is something that we're doing together to enjoy each other's company. I want him to be out there, showing America what he can do. The best outcome is a 1-2 finish.

As for the cast, I think this is the most diverse one yet! I've met everyone and they're all very nice. I know there's some so-called controversy with Chaz, but people need to be open-minded. It's 2011. The death threats are way out of line and completely uncalled for. He is a very nice person and people should respect him and his choices. That's just common human decency.

If you haven't heard, we have a new stage this year. It's a completely redone set. I think it's going to revitalize the show. Can't wait for you all to see it!

That's all for now!