ET can exclusively reveal that Von Miller (season 22), Meryl Davis (season 18) and Nastia Liukin (season 20) will be returning to the ballroom next Monday, serving as mentors to the remaining six contestants vying for the mirrorball trophy on the shortened, all-athlete season of the dance competition show.
Meryl will mentor fellow Olympic figure skaters Mirai Nigasu and Adam Rippon, while Nastia will help Tonya Harding and Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch. Meanwhile, Von will mentor fellow NFL star Josh Norman and Olympic ice luger Chris Mazdzer.
ET spoke with Von, Meryl and Nastia exclusively on Thursday, where they shared their excitement about being back in the ballroom, the advice they've been giving their mentees and what fans can expect from the semi-finals. Read our full Q&A below.
ET: Welcome back to the ballroom! How excited are you to return?
Meryl Davis: Ahh, I'm so excited to be back and it feels good reconnecting with everyone! It's been so much fun. I just love everyone that's a part of this show. Von Miller: I'm super excited to be back on DWTS. It was an unbelievable experience and to relive those moments is magical. I immediately said yes [when asked] -- I couldn't wait to get back on the floor and in the ballroom. Nastia Liukin: I also immediately said yes. I realized I had to switch around my travel schedule and a few other planned events, but I wouldn't have missed this opportunity for the world. I absolutely love this show.
When did you first hear from ABC that you'd be returning as a mentor for week three, and how stoked were you when you found out who you'd be mentoring?
Meryl: It all came about really quickly, I actually only found out about a few days ago, but I'm so excited in particular to be supporting Mirai and Adam. I just think they're so incredible. Of course, when I was asked, I said yes. We're actually on tour together right now, for Stars on Ice, so we're traveling across the country together during the week. I've known them both for so long, so there was no hesitation when they asked me to do this. Von: I was excited. Me and Josh Norman are super good friends and Chris is an Olympian. Whenever you can work with athletes like that, it's great! Nastia: I actually just found out this week, so I will definitely need to brush the dust off of my dance shoes! But I'm VERY excited. I'm definitely a fan of both athletes, Tonya and Jennie, and am very good friends with their partners, so I was thrilled to hear I would be mentoring them.
What has the mentoring process been like so far? What type of advice have you been giving your mentees?
Meryl: It's been a really fun experience for me so far. I think the best piece of advice I have given is to really soak in those moments. It goes very quickly, especially this season, so embrace it. Mirai and Adam both had such success at the Winter Olympics, and now, this is such a unique, special moment for each of them. Being able to celebrate that with America on DWTS is such a wonderful thing. Von: I've really enjoyed it. Being back on the show and in the ballroom is an incredible experience -- they are all pros! As for my advice, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so you need to live in the moment. Dial into the moment -- take advantage of it and have fun. Every week the competition gets bigger and bigger and the lights get brighter and brighter, so I expect them to show up knowing that and be ready!
With the show only being four weeks, the pressure is on. What are your thoughts on the condensed season and how intensely the athletes have to work?
Meryl: It seems like everybody came right out of the gate week one and ready to go. In a typical season, it's usually a slow and steady climb, but with only four weeks, I think it puts a little more pressure on them to put their best foot forward. In regards to the scheduling, that's definitely the most difficult part. For Mirai and Adam, they're probably in the best shapes of their lives. They're no strangers to hard work and being on their feet all day. Despite the challenges they're facing with their schedules and traveling all the time, they're pretty calm and collected. Von: It doesn't really change anything, because at the end of the day, you just have to dance. Nastia: I cannot imagine how quickly it's going by for them, because my season was 10 weeks and it just flew by. I agree that the pressure is definitely on. I mean, week two and they already had to do two dances, including a team dance! That normally doesn't come until later in the [season]. But that's what athletes are normally good at -- performing well under nerves and pressure and not being afraid to put in the hours of hard work and rehearsal time.
Meryl, we love the friendly competition Adam and Mirai have going on. They said on the show they would love to make it into the finals together. What's their friendship really like behind the scenes, and how do you plan to get them into that last week?
Meryl: I think as an athlete you learn that the stronger your competitors are, the more it inspires you to be the best version of yourself and to work harder to be even better. Mirai and Adam have been teammates for years and they've inspired each other to be their best and so, while of course they're going head-to-head in this competition, I know that they're there for each other every step of the way. They want nothing but the best for one another!
As for finale week, I think it's important to remind them that this isn't about being perfect or being a professional dancer. It's about enjoying yourself and letting people enjoy it along with you. Just enjoy the experience and it will last a lifetime!
It will be an intense third week for the athletes, as they will be dancing twice on Monday. First, they'll perform one individual dance with their pro partners as usual. Later, they'll also partake in a dance-off battle. At the end of the night, there will be a triple elimination, so the stakes are higher than ever.
Here's what they'll be dancing to for their individual performances:
Adam & Jenna Johnson
Individual dance: Contemporary – "O" by Coldplay
Chris & Witney Carson
Individual dance: Foxtrot – "I Got Rhythm" by Ray Chew Live
Jennie & Keo Motstepe
Individual dance: Viennese Waltz – "The Rest of Our Life" by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
Josh & Sharna Burgess
Individual dance: Contemporary – "Stand by Me" by Bootstraps
Mirai & Alan Bersten
Individual dance: Quickstep – "Bo$$" by Ray Chew Live
Tonya & Sasha Farber:
Individual dance: Rumba – "See You Again" by Tyler Ward
Here's who will be pairing up against each other during the Dance-Off battle round:
Adam & Jenna vs. Mirai & Alan
Jive, "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry
Chris & Witney vs. Josh & Sharna
Salsa, "WTF (Where They From)" by Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams
Tonya & Sasha vs. Jennie & Keo
Cha Cha, "Dance" by DNCE
Dancing With the Stars airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.