There is no doubt that Laurie Hernandez, U.S. gold-medal-winning Olympic gymnast and America's sweetheart, is the clear favorite to win the current season of Dancing with the Stars. But we learned something about presumptive favorites on Nov. 8, and that's never presume until the competition is over.
With the Dancing with the Stars Season 23 finale only days away, it's time to make predictions about who will win. Besides Laurie, I mean. Because she's going to win. Let's look at the other finalists anyway!
Their best dance so far: That steamy shower they had on stage in Week 6
If this were a beauty contest, these two cover models would be a lock to win. But I get the feeling they were the last couple into the finals, because they're just a step below everyone else when it comes to season-long consistency with dancing. Jana has shown tons of improvement, however, and many of the dances she's performed have had a solid emotional anchor attached to them (remember her dance for her baby?), which works well to tell personal stories that judges and fans remember. The dancing hasn't always been there, though, and some of Gleb's concepts have been big misses. That won't get it done against these incredibly talented finalists.
Odds to win: 30 to 1
Their best dance so far: The spunky jive to "Good Golly, Miss Molly" in Week 7
When Calvin is on, he is ON and one of the most fun stars to watch. His pro football background has been a plus, as his athleticism is on full display when he's spinning and throwing his partner Lindsay around like he just scored a touchdown and she's the football (don't spike her!). Their chemistry is fantastic, too, with Lindsay's bubbly personality a perfect match for Calvin's surprising charisma given he was so reticent on the football field. But what Calvin has going for him are two things essential to this contest: his shocking gracefulness and ability to master his 6'5" frame, and his steady improvement that's shown him take criticism and get better and better each week (with one hiccup n Week 10). He's my personal favorite (me like football), but a win would be a huge surprise.
Odds to win: 20 to 1
Their best dance so far: The saucy tango from Week 10, but James brought it every week
Very few people knew who James was when he entered the competition, but he's emerged as the season's best potential breakout star and will have plenty of opportunities to do a whole lot more than drive cars when this is all over, win or lose. Julianne called him the best male dancer they've had on the show, and watching him this season, it's hard to argue with that. Dude can move, and not just like Roger Rabbit move, like Gene Kelly move! He has that lethal combination of unteachable skills: star power and innate grace. And his story about cheating death in a car crash is both inspirational and moving; the man is blessed and should be Prime Minister of Canada by the time this is all over. There's a possible upset in the making here as he's the only one with a realistic chance to defeat Laurie, but it's going to take a perfect final to do that. In an ideal world, there's a tie and he and Laurie share the victory. But no matter what happens, he's coming out of this a big winner.
Odds to win: 3 to 1
Their best dance so far: It's a tie! "Pure Imagination" from Week 8 and "The Way You Make Me Feel" from Week 4
What can you say about Laurie? The dancing gods blessed her when she was born and she is no stranger to the bright lights of competition, something she proved while taking a gold medal at the biggest sporting event in the entire universe this summer. She's nailed five perfect scores, including a current streak of four in a row, and was the favorite as soon as her name was announced as a participant. If there's a weakness with Laurie, it's that she sometimes gets put in a dance or routine that doesn't match her beaming personality, but then again, Val threw her into a sexy samba and she crushed that, too. Plus, she just added a heartbreaking story with the tragic passing of her grandmother last week. I don't see her losing, nor do I want her to lose. She deserves this.
Who do you think will win? Who do you think will finish in second?
Dancing with the Stars returns Monday at 8/7c on ABC.