By Rebecca Silverstein, with reporting by Taryn Ryder
"Dancing With the Stars" is gearing up for yet another season of blood, sweat and ballroom dancing. But this time around, the best of the best are coming back to face off on the dance floor.
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So who's the front-runner?
"Everybody," Karina Smirnoff told Wonderwall at the Do Something! Awards on Aug. 19. "There are people who have gone all the way but haven't won in their season, so they are going to have extra drive and incentive to do better this time around. Then there are people who have the confidence of a champion and will not want to lose that title and will fight extra hard."
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So Karina, who won season 13 with J.R. Martinez, is already strategizing with her partner, season 4 champ Apolo Ohno. "We met for the title shoot a few days ago," she says. "We exchanged numbers and have been texting. I need to get his love and taste for music so we know what songs to suggest to production to get them to us. It's been really fun. The guy's got a great sense of humor. You know when you're reading an email, and you are cracking up out loud. You know this is going to be good."
Anna Trebunskaya joked that she was fated to be matched with her partner, Drew Lachey. "I was excited. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's awesome,'" she says. "We have a story, some history. He won season 2, and I was second, so it's meant to be."
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But even though she's dancing with a champion, Anna knows she's facing some stiff competition. One dancer in particular has her in awe. "Because it's all-stars, they all are amazing, but Kirstie Alley, she is fantastic," she says.
Karina says that on the men's side, Gilles Marini, who was the runner-up by less than 1 percent in season 8, is a great competitor. "Gilles is going to put up a great fight," Karina says. "In the end, it could go either way, but I feel like Gilles is very competitive. I've never seen him doing anything halfway. He's going to dive in and be the Michael Phelps of this competition."
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Speaking of Olympic swimmers, Ryan Lochte has expressed interest in trading in his Speedo for dancing shoes. So what's Anna's take? "Listen, if he wants to, come on in," she says. "We love athletes and people who want to do it. I want him to come in and have fun!"