Olympic Athletes Who Showed Up On Dancing With The Stars

When "Dancing with the Stars" made its TV debut in 2005, the series set the template for the type of stars who would be participating in future seasons. The first season's cast, as longtime viewers will recall, featured just six celebrities: "Seinfeld" alum John O'Hurley, "The Bachelorette" OG Trista Sutter, model Rachel Hunter, boxer Evander Holyfield, New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre, and soap star Kelly Monaco. Since then, the show has continued to utilize a similarly eclectic mix of celebs, with numerous athletes taking part.

These athletes have included former NFL stars, NBA and MLB players, race car drivers, UFC fighters, and more. Over time, "DWTS" casting also came to include athletes who attained fame by competing in the Olympics, with contestants drawn from a wide range of sporting disciplines. Not surprisingly, Olympic-level athletes have tended to do well on the show, given that the discipline and dedication required to learn choreography and perform it in front of a live audience isn't all that different from the mindset required to compete at an international level. This is something that has not eluded producers of "DWTS," who responded to the popularity of athletes on the show by casting a special four-week season in 2018 entirely with sports stars, a roster that included several Olympians. 

From the podium to the ballroom, here are Olympic athletes who have competed — and for some, even won — on "DWTS."

Apolo Ohno (Seasons 4 and 15)

Speed skater Apolo Ohno was the first Olympic athlete to compete on "Dancing with the Stars," originally cast in the series' fourth season. He was partnered with Julianne Hough, who was making her debut as a pro dancer. Hough dazzled on the dance floor, and the partnership proved to be unbeatable when she and Ohno won that season's Mirrorball Trophy.

In fact, the passion that the pair displayed on the dance floor sparked rumors that the two had a fling during filming — something that Ohno vehemently denied. "There's nothing to that. Our relationship was strictly professional. It was sometimes goofy, but was strictly professional," he told the New York Post in 2007. "We had great chemistry on the dance floor, which is why people think [we're romantically involved]. It meant I was doing my job [as a dancer]."

Ohno was invited back for Season 15, part of an "All-Stars" cast of returnees. This time, he was teamed up with dancer Karina Smirnoff, and the two didn't always see eye to eye. In a blog post he wrote for People, he hinted they hadn't been getting along so well. "I think last week, we were going in the right direction, but Karina and I were going through some issues," he wrote. "We see each other every single day and it makes things difficult sometimes." Ultimately, Ohno didn't achieve the level of success he had with his first go-round, and he and Smirnoff were eliminated in the semifinals.

Kristi Yamaguchi (Season 6)

Kristi Yamaguchi brought home a gold medal in figure skating at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, which was her claim to fame when she was cast in the sixth season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2008. She was partnered with Mark Ballas, and the pair made it all the way to the finals. "I'm really proud and thankful for the fans who have voted us all the way through," Yamaguchi gushed to TV Guide ahead of their final performance. "At this point, I just want to dance my heart out and do all I can and hopefully have a good time."

Not only did Yamaguchi do exactly what she said she would, she and Ballas wound up dancing off with the Mirrorball Trophy. Looking back at the experience in a 2018 interview with the Nob Hill Gazette, she compared competing in the Olympics to what it was like on "Dancing with the Stars."

"Both were a challenge!" she said. "I mean 'Dancing with the Stars' was obviously an intense 10 weeks. The Olympics — a lifelong pursuit. With 'Dancing with the Stars' I was like, 'Okay, this is a reality TV program. Let's just go for it and have fun.' My goal was to make it to the finals because I wanted to do the freestyle dance. It looked like so much fun. But once I made it to the finals, those competitive juices started flowing."

Misty May-Treanor (Season 7)

Beach volleyball sensation Misty May-Treanor is the proud winner of three Olympic gold medals, earning them in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, and London in 2012. In 2008, she was among the celebrities invited to compete in the seventh season of "Dancing with the Stars," partnered with pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. 

Sadly, May-Treanor didn't last long on the show. She wasn't eliminated, however, she suffered a massive injury during a dance rehearsal that forced her to drop out of the competition. "I ruptured my Achilles tendon and from that point on I knew I couldn't continue," she lamented to People. "I'm out and I'm really bummed." Her first instinct, she explained in a press release by USA Volleyball (via ESPN), was to suck it up and carry on. "I was like, 'Okay, I'm an athlete. Tape it up and get back out there,'" she said. "I never thought in a million years, especially in ballroom, that I would hurt myself." However, her injury was far too severe for that, with doctors telling her she would need a minimum of nine months to recover.

A few years later, when "DWTS" announced plans for an "All-Stars" season, she lobbied hard for a do-over. In fact, she issued a Facebook post listing four reasons why she should be invited back. Chief among these, she stated, "I would love to finish what I wasn't able to when I was on the show the last time." She ultimately wasn't among the cast chosen for the season.

Shawn Johnson (Seasons 8 and 15)

Gymnast Shawn Johnson captured the hearts of viewers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she won a gold medal for her skills on the balance beam; in addition to the three silver medals she acquired in other categories. The following year, she joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" for its eighth season. She was partnered with Mark Ballas, with the two becoming that season's champions. "This is my new gold medal," Johnson — who, at 17 years old, made "DWTS" history as the show's youngest-ever champion — said after her win (via ABC News). "It's made me the happiest person ever and changed my life."

Johnson proved to be a fan-favorite, and returned for the "All-Stars" season in 2012, teamed with pro dancer Derek Hough. This time, the Olympian didn't reach the Mirrorball Trophy, although they did come close, finishing in second place.

Not only was her dancing partnership with Hough not as successful as her pairing with Ballas, but it wasn't as harmonious either. Appearing on the "Better Tomorrow with Hannah Brown" podcast in 2023, Johnson admitted that Hough was somewhat of a taskmaster during rehearsals, and had a tendency to develop choreography faster than he could communicate it to her. "And I remember so many times we would get in arguments because he'd be like, 'Why aren't you doing it? Why aren't you remembering the steps?'" she said, pointing out that she would reply, "'It's in your brain, but you forgot to teach me.'"

Natalie Coughlin (Season 9)

Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin proved herself to be a phenom during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, bringing home two gold medals, two silvers, and a bronze. At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she won another gold medal, along with two more silvers and three bronzes. The competitive spirit she showed in the water was also on display on the dance floor when she joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" for its ninth season in 2009.

However, Coughlin's dance skills weren't quite on par with her swimming abilities, and she and partner Alec Mazo were eliminated early in the season when the judges deemed the duo's Paso Doble to be not quite up to snuff. "I'm sad it's over," Coughlin said during a post-elimination appearance on "Good Morning America" (via ABC News). "I definitely wasn't a dancer coming into this. I enjoyed it so much. It's been a wonderful experience."

Coughlin wasn't thrilled with her elimination, which she blamed on the judges' over-zealous scrutiny of her routines. "They gave us crappy scores, so what did they expect?" she told RadarOnline. "This has been my life for the past two weeks ... I'm not ready to go home yet." Mazo echoed his partner's feelings about the judges. "Clearly, you take it personally," he added. "I really wasn't ready to go home yet."

Evan Lysacek (Season 10)

Figure skater Evan Lysacek captured an Olympic gold medal during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. After his win, Lysacek spoke with Entertainment Weekly about his future ambitions. He mentioned a desire to explore acting, but also had another goal in mind. "I would love to try 'Dancing with the Stars,'" he said, recalling that he was in the audience to cheer on fellow Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Apolo Ohno when they competed. "All I have heard from everyone that has done the show is what a blast it is. That could be a good way for me to do something extremely challenging, but also fun to celebrate my Olympic win."

Producers of the show got the message and offered Lysacek a spot on the 10th season of "DWTS" when it premiered later that same year. Partnered with pro dancer Anna Trebunskaya, the two made an excellent pair when they made it to the top six, and earned the first perfect score of the season, with each judge awarding them 10s.

The dynamic dance duo made it to the finals, competing against Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough. The latter pair was declared the winners, with Lysacek and Trebunskaya as runners up. "We're so proud of Nicole and Derek. They deserve it," said Lysacek on the show (via Extra TV). "They inspired all the other couples in the competition."

Hope Solo (Season 13)

As goalkeeper for the United States Women's National Soccer Team, Hope Solo contributed to two back-to-back Olympic gold medal wins in soccer in 2008 and again in 2012. Tapped for the 13th season of "Dancing with the Stars," Solo was teamed with pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. This particular pairing, however, proved to be among the worst couples in "DWTS" history, with the two openly butting heads during rehearsals before being eliminated in the semifinals. 

Solo revisited her time on the show in her 2012 biography, "Solo: A Memoir of Hope," which raised allegations against Chmerkovskiy. "He was often nasty, swearing at me and being harshly critical," she wrote in an excerpt published by USA Today. "He manhandled me in rehearsals from the start, pushing me, whacking my stomach, bending my arms roughly," she continued, admitting she didn't protest because she assumed that was just the way Chmerkovskiy taught dance. "He wanted my head in a specific position," she wrote. "To achieve that, he slapped me across the face. Hard."

In a 2015 appearance on the "Allegedly with Theo Von & Matthew Cole Weiss" podcast (via E! News), Chmerkovskiy held nothing back when he shared his opinion of Solo. "She's just a s***ty person," he said. "People can be bad or good or whatever. You can have a s***ty life growing up. You can have a tough upbringing. You can have history. You can have whatever. But, if you are just a bad person, you know what I mean? There's no excuse for that."

Meryl Davis (Season 18)

Figure skater Meryl Davis took home an Olympic gold medal for ice dancing at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, having won a silver in the same event at the previous Winter Games in Vancouver. In Sochi, she also won a bronze as a member of the U.S. figure skating team. Davis capped these wins off by heading to "Dancing with the Stars" for the series' 18th season in 2014.

Partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Davis explained to Us Weekly how she was able to avoid the personality conflicts that those such as Solo claimed to have had with him. "In a sport like figure skating, you definitely learn that addressing issues and facing things and challenges together isn't always a bad thing," she said. "Having pressure in high stress situations just comes with the territory."

In fact, the chemistry between the skater and the pro dancer was impossible to ignore, leading viewers to wonder if there was more to their relationship than just dancing. "I think the two of you should get married," judge Carrie Ann Inaba quipped after one of their routines (via People). Those questions weren't exactly set to rest when the two won the Mirrorball Trophy at the end of the season, with Chmerkovskiy singing the praises of his partner. "Meryl is everything. I tried as hard as I have ever tried and she just gave me more ability," he told People. "Meryl is the strongest person I've ever met."

Charlie White (Season 18)

When Meryl Davis won her gold medal for figure skating, it was alongside her skating partner, Charlie White, winning a gold and silver medal as a duo. When Davis joined "Dancing with the Stars" in the 18th season, so did White. Appearing with the rest of the cast on "Good Morning America" (via ABC News), White said he was eager to learn a new set of skills. "The way you move is completely different," he explained, comparing ice dancing to ballroom dancing.

White and dance partner Sharna Burgess racked up some perfect scores and made it to the semifinals, which is where White's "DWTS" journey ended. "I definitely think the fact we were able to make some really special dances makes it a little bit easier," White said during a post-elimination appearance on "Good Morning America" (via ABC News). "We're disappointed because we were so close to the final, and to be able to have one last competitive dance with each other would have been special, but just the journey itself, we're just grateful for all the opportunities and the friendship that we now have with the big 'Dancing with the Stars' family."

While Burgess was his dance teacher, she revealed that she also learned a few things from White during their "DWTS" partnership. "He taught me so much about positivity and your outlook on life, and just not sweating the small stuff," she noted, explaining they had become good friends during the process.

Nastia Liukin (Season 20)

Anastasia "Nastia" Liukin rocked the gymnastics world during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where she walked away with a gold medal, three silver medals, and a bronze. In 2015, Liukin pursued the Mirrorball Trophy in the 20th season of "Dancing with the Stars," partnered with pro Derek Hough.

Misfortune struck when Hough suffered a major injury while rehearsing for the 10th-anniversary "DWTS" TV special. "It is serious," Julianne Hough said of her brother's injuries while appearing on "Good Morning America" (via E! News), revealing that he had broken his toe and sprained his ankle in two places. Derek, trouper that he is, returned to the show and continued to dance with Liukin until they were eliminated, ultimately finishing in fourth place.

"First of all, being able to dance with Derek one last time really meant so much to me, and that dance was kind of the perfect way to go out," Liukin expressed while appearing on "Good Morning America" (via ABC News). Admitting she wasn't too surprised to be exiting when she did, she added, "I definitely didn't want to leave, but it was a good night." In the meantime, Liukin — who was attending New York University at the time — had a few other things to deal with. "I have four finals to take now and two more papers to write!" she told E! News.

Laurie Hernandez (Season 23)

Gymnast Laurie Hernandez returned from the 2016 Olympics with one gold medal and one silver one, which propelled her to "Dancing with the Stars" during its 23rd season that same year. Partnered with Val Chmerkovskiy, Hernandez expressed her thrill at being part of the show when she told People, "I'm so excited! I can't wait to do the jive."

Sadly, Hernandez experienced a personal loss when her beloved grandmother died in the midst of the season. "I am extremely close to my grandma," she said in a pre-taped package on the show (via Entertainment Tonight). After completing her performance, the emotional athlete broke down in tears.

Despite that heartbreak, Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy made it all the way to the finals, where they won the Mirrorball Trophy. The then-16-year-old became the youngest winner of the dance competition. "I just want to thank everyone for their support and riding along this crazy roller coaster of my life," she gushed after her win (via USA Today). "And, my goal is just to inspire others as I go on with my journey, and thanks for being there for me." She celebrated her win with some cookies and cream ice cream, according to People, which was delivered to her while she gave interviews on the red carpet after the show.

Simone Biles (Season 24)

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was announced as one of the celebs participating in the 24th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2017. She was teamed up with pro dancer Sasha Farber.

During the eighth week of competition, the judges levelled some criticism. "I'd like to see more authenticity about who you are when you perform," judge Carrie Ann Inaba told her (via People). When host Tom Bergeron pointed out that Biles wasn't smiling after hearing the judges' critiques, she told him, "Smiling doesn't win you gold medals." The following week, Biles was seen breaking down in tears during a rehearsal. "Last week was really fun. I loved both of our dances, but the judges' comments hurt," she said. "It made me feel like I didn't work hard enough, but I knew I had." She was ultimately voted off the week before the finale, finishing in fourth place.

Years later, Bergeron looked back at his remark about her lack of smile, and praised her for the way she responded to him. "I was so properly put in my place," Bergeron admitted during a 2023 appearance on Cheryl Burke's "Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans" podcast. "But that was one time when I wished I had taken a beat, translated what I heard in my ear and put it in my own words."

Nancy Kerrigan (Season 24)

Simone Biles wasn't the only Olympian to compete in the 24th season of "Dancing with the Stars." Also on board that season was figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, who won a bronze at the Albertville Olympics in 1992, and silver in Lillehammer in 1994 (the latter after she'd been bashed in the leg by a goon hired by the husband of skating rival Tonya Harding). Her dance partner for the season was Artem Chigvintsev. "I have always been a big fan of the show and always wanted to do it," she told Bleepmag of why she decided to do the show. "This was a bucket list item of sorts."

Kerrigan was eliminated after losing a dance-off with Biles and partner Sasha Farber, which prevented them from making the final five. After earning the dubious distinction of having the earliest elimination of any figure skater to have competed on the show, Kerrigan shared her thoughts on being sent home. "I guess I was a little surprised, just because I really wanted to get to the end," Kerrigan said while appearing on "Good Morning America" (via NBC Sports). "I want to keep going and learn more, but I knew every week there's always that chance. I don't know. It's just part of the game, I guess."

Her dance partner was also surprised by their elimination. "I wish we could've gone further, I feel like Nancy deserved to go further in the competition," Chigvintsev insisted to E! News.

Jamie Anderson (Season 26)

The 26th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2018 was a very special edition, with an abbreviated four-week schedule. Dubbed "Dancing with the Star: Athletes," each star that season was a celebrated sports star, with several of them having competed in the Olympics. 

Among the Olympians that season was Jamie Anderson, a snowboarder who won a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and another at PyeongChang in 2018. Ahead of her debut, Anderson told Entertainment Tonight she was still learning the ropes when it came to dancing. "It's pretty intimidating, because a lot of it, I'm still a bit uncomfortable with," she noted. "It's all brand new to me. But I think it's going to be fun."

As it turned out, her "DWTS" journey was a short one, when she and dance partner Artem Chigvintsev were sent packing in the season's very first episode as part of a double elimination. She didn't mince words when sharing her feelings about her early exit. "Heartbroken! That sucked!" she admitted in an interview with E! News. All things considered, Anderson said she had no regrets about her performance on the dance floor. "I think I did pretty good," she said. "I mean, I gave it my all. There's a couple little moments I could have been better ... but I think I did really good."

Tonya Harding (Season 26)

Another Olympian who competed in the 26th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2018 was controversial figure skater Tonya Harding. Having competed in both the Albertville and Lillehammer Olympic Games, she had never won a medal — although the wild story of her ex-husband's attempt at eliminating rival Nancy Kerrigan formed the basis of the Oscar-winning movie "I, Tonya," which had been released the previous year.

Given that Kerrigan had competed on "DWTS" two seasons earlier, Harding said she was fully expecting to be compared to her one-time rival. "You know, I know that there's going to be comparisons, and that's perfectly fine," she told E! News. "I just want to go out and we will do the best that we can." 

Harding proved to be a natural on the dance floor, and she and partner Sasha Farber made it all the way to the season finale as one of the final three couples. While she and Farber didn't win the Mirrorball Trophy, they did achieve a perfect score for their final dance, with each judge giving them a 10. "We feel like winners," she told reporters after the show, as chronicled by People. "We got all 10s. Come on. You can't get any better than that!"

Mirai Nagasu (Season 26)

A bronze medalist at the PyeongChang Winter Games in 2018, figure skater Mirai Nagasu told reporters that she hoped her performance on the ice would catapult her to stardom. "I would like to be on 'Dancing with the Stars' because I want to be a star," she told the Washington Post before ever being cast for the show. After receiving backlash for that remark, she issued an apology. "I used that as a distraction and I probably should have kept it to myself," she subsequently backtracked People. "It didn't come out the way I wanted it to."

The controversy over her remark did not go unnoticed in the production offices of "Dancing with the Stars." Just a few short months later, Nagasu was offered a spot in the "Athletes" edition, which she eagerly accepted. Because of the season's abbreviated four-week timeline, Nagasu was one of three athletes eliminated in the semifinals.

In a post-elimination interview with Entertainment Tonight, Nagasu admitted she was bummed out that she and dance partner Alan Bertsen had been axed. "I am so grateful for this opportunity and, yes, I'm very disappointed," she said. "You know, sometimes life throws you lemons and you make lemonade with it and next week I'll be back as team support." She shared even more of her feelings in a candid Instagram post, writing, "Ultimately, although I realize it is a reality television show, it hurts to have been eliminated."

Chris Mazdzer (Season 26)

Chris Mazdzer, who won a silver medal in luge at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, was also selected for "Dancing with the Stars: Athletes" in 2018. "Being asked to join the prestigious and fun television show 'Dancing with the Stars' is an incredible honor," Mazdzer told the Press-Republican. "Not only is it my mom's favorite TV show, but I will also be paired with her favorite dancer, Witney Carson."

Marzdzer was another victim of that same triple elimination that claimed Marai Nagasu, and he ended the season in a three-way tie for fourth place. Interviewed by NBC Sports (via Heavy), he admitted that he found competing on "DWTS" to be far more nerve-racking than competing in the Olympics. "I mean, talk about terrifying. Like, cool, 10 million people are about to watch me and the countdown's like 10-9- and it's like oh my god! Way more butterflies," he admitted.

The other big difference, he explained, was that he had been training on the luge for years before heading to the Winter Games, while he only had a few days of intensive rehearsals with Carson for each of their "DWTS" routines. "I was only training for a couple days before those dances, where with luge, I've done this for 20 years. I got it," he explained. "Little different mindset."

Adam Rippon (Season 26)

A bronze medalist at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, Adam Rippon was one of five Olympic athletes to compete in the 26th season of "Dancing with the Stars," and he did not disappoint. Partnered with pro dancer Jenna Johnson, Rippon delivered an impressive performance through the brief season. After their first dance, Rippon declared (via USA Today), "You know, I'm not a scientist, but we've got chemistry."

For their final dance, the duo were granted a perfect score by the judges, earning a standing ovation from the audience and, more importantly, that season's Mirrorball Trophy. After the big win, Rippon was asked how he felt. "Honestly? Exhausted," she said, in an Entertainment Tonight video. Asked if he was planning to display the Mirrorball next to his bronze medal, Rippon gushed, "Oh, totally." He also addressed his rapport with Johnson, adding, "This has been such an incredible experience, just pushing yourself out of your comfort zone — and more than that, to meet somebody who I'm going to be friends with for the rest of my life."

Rippon returned to the "DWTS" fold later that year when he, pro dancer Val Chmerkovskiy, and choreographer Mandy Moore served as the judges of a spinoff, "Dancing With the Stars: Juniors." The show featured a cast of young celebrities that included "Dance Moms" alum Mackenzie Ziegler, "MasterChef Junior" winner Addison Osta Smith, and reality TV star Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" fame.

Mary Lou Retton (Season 27)

While most of the Olympic athletes who've competed in "Dancing with the Stars" participated in games held in the 2000s, the show took an old-school approach when casting legendary gymnast Mary Lou Retton in its 27th season in 2018. Retton, of course, became the darling of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, taking home a total of five medals; one gold, two silver, and two bronze. 

She and dance partner Sasha Farber were eliminated during the sixth week on "Halloween Night." "This has been the time of my life. I hadn't challenged myself in decades and I challenged myself and I'm off to a fresh new start," Retton said afterward, as reported by UPI

Retton unfortunately experienced a health scare in October 2023 that landed her in the ICU. "My amazing mom, Mary Lou, has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life," her daughter, McKenna Kelley, said in a crowdfunding post (via Today). Among those who reached out to Retton was her "DWTS" dance partner. "I spoke to my sweet Mary Lou over text, during the show, and I reminded her that she needs to fight harder than ever, there is only ONE Mary Lou and that she has got this," Farber told People. After responding to treatment, Retton was sent home. "I'm with family continuing to slowly recover and staying very positive as I know this recovery is a long and slow process," Retton wrote on Instagram.

Johnny Weir (Season 29)

In 2020, "Dancing with the Stars" announced the cast of its 29th season. Among the stars was Johnny Weir, the Olympic figure skater who participated in both the Turin Winter Games in 2006, and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, before retiring from competition to become an NBC Sports analyst. Partnered with pro dancer Britt Stewart, the couple was sent home in a double elimination that also axed Disney Channel star Skai Jackson and partner Alan Bersten. 

Weir was not happy that he and Stewart were eliminated, particularly given the fact that the each of the judges gave them a perfect 10 for what turned out to be their swan-song dance. "I feel horrific," Weir told Entertainment Tonight of being voted off. "I gave everything that I had for this competition and I have no regrets at all about the performances that we gave. At the end of the day, it does come down to your scores from the judges as well as how the public sees you and if they choose to vote for you."

Despite the way things turned out, Weir insisted that he wouldn't have done a single thing any differently. "Honestly, I would 100 times choose to be myself over being popular," he added. "And I think that that is a strong message that we have shown this whole competition."

Suni Lee (Season 30)

The cast of the 30th season of "Dancing with the Stars" was revealed in 2021, and included Olympic gymnast Suni Lee. Lee, of course, had dazzled at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, winning a gold medal, in addition to a silver and a bronze.

Lee's "DWTS" journey took an unexpected turn when she became ill with a stomach virus. According to her dance partner, Sasha Farber, she was so queasy that she vomited in her mouth moments just as they went on stage, but ultimately soldiered on and completed the routine. "She held it in for a minute 35 [seconds]," Farber told Us Weekly after the show. "And then the second the dance was over she ran to a trash can." Lee and Farber wound up being eliminated in the semifinals. After her elimination, she admitted she had actually surpassed her expectations. "I honestly didn't think I'd make it this far," she said (via Pioneer Press), adding, "I have doubted myself the whole way."

In 2023, Lee revealed that she had been diagnosed with a kidney disease that was incurable. While she was understandably concerned about how that would affect her athletic ability, she subsequently competed at the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships and won a bronze medal. "We didn't think that I would be here," she told Self. "We didn't know what was possible. We didn't know what was wrong with me. And here I am on the big stage, competing."