The Olympic figure skater and his pro partner, Jenna Johnson, spoke with ET after Monday's premiere, and they opened up about their goals for the season.
"Every moment is judged in life, and when I knew that I could lift Jenna, I knew that I could lift my own spirit," Rippon told ET's Keltie Knight who caught up with the celebrated Olympian and Johnson backstage after the show.
Rippon also reflected on his nearly instant bond with his DWTS partner, explaining that they were essentially besties "right off the bat."
"We just had so much fun together. We just were joking and laughing," he recalled. "And we do that all throughout our rehearsals."
For the pair's performance, Rippon appeared in silhouette to begin the cha-cha, standing in front of two enormous white angel wings made out of sparkling lights.
Then, as he stepped out onto the stage, he joined Johnson for their extravagant routine, set to RuPaul's "Sissy That Walk," and it was downright brilliant (especially for a first-week performance)!
Filled with impressive spins, contortions and even some amazing lifts, it was clear that Rippon's undeniable talent as a figure skater is going to be put to good use throughout the season, and positions him as a frontrunner in the race for the Mirrorball trophy.
The pair's fun, energetic number received a rousing cacophony of applause from the audience and earned them a score of 24 out of 30 from the DWTS judges, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, who gave them three '8's. The couple tied for first place with NFL star Josh Norman and his pro-partner, Sharna Burgess.
As for Johnson, this season marks her second turn as an official pro after years of being a DWTS troupe member, and with Rippon by her side she's got a fighting chance at becoming the champ.
However, Johnson said that the pair have other objectives that are more important to them than simply winning.
"This is a very competitive and you never know what's going to happen and our goal each week is to just produce epic routines," she told ET. "That's been our main goal this whole time. So yeah, competition aside, obviously we'd love to win, but we just want to do epic pieces."
Check out the video below to hear more from Rippon and Johnson about their time preparing for the big season premiere.
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.