If there's one person on Dancing with the Stars this season who has a slight edge, it's Aly Raisman. Not because she's a gymnast, but because she and the Fierce Five U.S. Women's Olympics Gymnastics team gave Shawn Johnson an assist in her freestyle last season. "Working with Shawn and Derek [Hough] was so much fun. The girls and I loved it," Raisman tells TVGuide.com. "I was nervous about it and I think I'll be really nervous for the first show, but I guess it's good that I sort of know what it's like out there." The 18-year-old, who won two gold medals and a bronze at the London Olympics, is partnered with Mark Ballas, who won Season 8 with — who else? — Johnson. Does she feel pressure to follow in Johnson's Mirrorball-winning footsteps? And will her super-nervous parents make a cameo? Find out below!
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Did you get the Dancing bug when you performed with Shawn last season?
Aly Raisman: [Laughs] A little. It was so much fun. I literally said yes [to doing the show] in, like, 20 seconds. I think it's something that's obviously outside of my comfort zone. I've never done anything like it before, so I really like that. I love a challenge and I love to work hard.
Do you have any dance training?
Raisman: I don't. I've only done gymnastics and all the stuff that I've been showing Mark that I've done in gymnastics is not right for dancing. The way my foot turns out is different. It's really hard. And [dancing] in heels is even more difficult. They kill your calves! We're always barefoot in gymnastics, so it takes some getting used to.
A lot of people will draw parallels between dancing and a gymnastics floor routine since you perform to music. Other than that, are there any other similarities that you've noticed?
Raisman: There really isn't that much similarity. I was telling Mark all the stuff I did in my floor routine and he was saying that won't help. [Laughs] I'm really confident in my floor routines, so I can take that attitude to the dance floor. I think the most important thing is to go out there and have fun and be confident. That's basically what I did in London.
Do you feel pressure to win since Shawn won and you have Mark? Some have pegged you as the favorite.
Raisman: I try not to think about that stuff. I just want to do the best that I can. I didn't really think about whether I'd get Mark, but I was really excited when I found out, which was, like, two days before we did Good Morning America. He's so creative and he did such a great job with Shawn, and we're getting along really well. Ultimately it's a friendly competition. Everyone's so nice. I think this will definitely help me in gymnastics to be more expressive on the floor.
Has that been the hardest part of dancing so far?
Raisman: Actually no. I'm actually not shy at all in rehearsals, which is good. I'm very goofy and we have a lot of fun. I'm a lot more comfortable shaking my hips and doing all that stuff, but it's the basic stuff that's hard for me. [Laughs] Mark says he teaches 5-year-old kids the basic stuff that I can't get, but literally when he asks me to shimmy or shake my hips, I can do it. He thought I'd have a harder time with that.
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It's usually the opposite.
Raisman: Yeah, I know. We've been sending videos to Shawn and she's like, "Oh my God!" She was impressed so that makes me feel good. But I didn't think I'd be so comfortable with shimmying. I can do it all day long! ... At the Olympics, I was so serious and intense, so I'm glad people will be able to see my personality and see me have fun and go crazy here. The [cha-cha] is really fun and energetic, so I'm excited for people to see it. It's a totally different side that people don't know exists.
What's the basic stuff that you don't get? Counting steps?
Raisman: Yeah, they're literally the easiest steps in the world. It's so embarrassing. Sometimes I get really frustrated and Mark's like, "You're not at the Olympics. Stop getting frustrated." I have to remember to relax and not be so hard on myself if I can't get it right in 30 minutes. I feel bad because I don't want to disappoint him, but he doesn't get mad at me. I know I'm not going to get everything right away. ... But I think the more I learn choreography, the easier it will be. The Kellogg's Tour really helped me. You're used to performing in front of crowds and audiences, but this is hard because I have absolutely no idea what the next dance is going to be. I have no idea the technique you need. I think the most important thing is to be positive and keep an open mind. Obviously there'll be some things that will go easier and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.
Who do you think is your biggest competition?
Raisman: I have to say Kellie Pickler and Jacoby Jones. Jacoby has a great personality, so I think people will definitely love him and he has good rhythm. I'm really excited to see his dances. I saw a little bit of Kellie dancing because Derek and Mark send videos to each other, and she looks amazing. I think everyone is going to be good.
You won gold performing to it, so what are the chances that you'll dance to "Hava Nagila"?
Raisman: [Laughs] I have absolutely no idea. I guess it's up to Mark. We've been sending in music [to be cleared] for the first few dances, but I don't know. I love everything we've been requesting so far. I'm sure "Hava Nagila" would be later down the road.
Give these stars a TV show!
Maybe the freestyle.
Raisman: Hopefully. Fingers crossed!
Will your parents be at every show? I think everyone is most excited to see how they react to you dancing.
Raisman: I know! [Laughs] I'm excited too. It's actually my youngest sister's birthday on [the premiere], so I'm really excited for that too. It'll be so fun for her to watch and meet everyone after. And my parents — I can't wait to watch them either. I don't think [they'll be there] every week because I have younger brothers and sisters, but the first show they'll go out for it. It's going to be really funny. I don't know what they would do. Mark likes my dad more than he likes me. My dad's like, "I'm ready to be on the show."
They need to have a camera on them at all times.
Raisman: Yes! I actually would really like to see that. I need to talk to the producers. [Laughs]