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Question of the Day: Of all the athletes who have won 'Dancing With the Stars,' who is the best? [Updated]

May 25, 2011 | 10:28 am

Dancingstars Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the athletes who have won TV's "Dancing With the Stars," including Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who was crowned the show's most recent champion Tuesday night.

Check back throughout the day for more responses, vote in the poll and weigh in with a comment of your own.

Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

Apolo Anton Ohno, he dazzled with his footwork. Shawn Johnson, she dazzled with her determination and her leg strength. Kristi Yamaguchi was elegant, Helio Castroneves was smooth, but the best athlete to win "Dancing With The Stars" has to be one of the NFLers.

Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward, they play a sport where you have to be strong and fast, use your hands and your feet.

So which one is it, Smith or Ward? What’s to pick between the two? Who should win the Super Bowl Mirror Ball, if we were to give one for the best of the athlete winners?

It’s not just because he’s the newest. Ward is the best. Because he’s a receiver, Ward gets the edge. He has to be fast and have great vision and quick hands and better-than-good speed.

And if there’s a Super Bowl next year, how about dance-off between Ward and Smith at halftime? But, please, no wardrobe malfunctions.

Shannon J. Owens, Orlando Sentinel

Admittedly, I haven’t watched every episode of "Dancing With the Stars." But I can tell you without a doubt that Kristi Yamaguchi is the best athlete contestant on that show for one simple reason; she’s a woman.

Let’s be real about the fact that the challenges female dancers face on this show far outweigh the men. For a women to even be considered a real contender, she must exhibit some aptitude for gymnastics, be it the splits, cartwheels, perfect leg extensions or some move that goes beyond what the average grown man or woman can achieve. The footwork is often more complex and intricate for the women, too, whereas the men serve more as a guide.

Yamaguchi had to be just as good or better than Julianne Hough, Kym Johnson and the other amazingly talented pro female dancers.

And she did that by earning perfect 10s for three consecutive rounds in the finals.

Irene Kraft, Allentown Morning Call

Tough choice. Being an athlete doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good dancer, as Sugar Ray Leonard proved this season. He may have moved like a butterfly across the boxing ring, but his feet were heavyweights on the dance floor.

If asked this question during the years that Kristi Yamaguchi, Helio Castroneves or Apolo Ohno were season winners, I’d most likely tell you each was the best. Each had irresistible charm and drive that complemented their dancing skills. Each earned the right to take home the mirror ball trophy.

But if I must choose, I have to go with this year’s winner, Hines Ward. Week after week, he made it look easy. His moves were smooth and natural, whether he was gyrating to a cha-cha or gliding gracefully through a Viennese waltz, Ward put as much heart into dancing as he does to playing football. He’s ballroom dancing’s MVP.

[Updated at 11:29 a.m.:

Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune

The best athlete-dancer? Yamaguchi, without a doubt. She had a built-in edge as the only one whose sport demands ability to spin, extensive dance training and years of working with choreographers. She not only was a gold-medal singles skater but a U.S. champion in pairs, so Yamaguchi knew how to work with a partner.   

All that showed on the dance floor as it had on the ice. Even though she insisted there was a big learning curve in counting beats as a dancer, one of her ice performances moved me to write: "Her timing was so exquisite it seemed Yamaguchi had a metronome in her feet."]

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Photo: Hines Ward with dance partner Kym Johnson. Credit: Adam Taylor / Associated Press/ABC

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