Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte may face a new Brazilian challenge: the samba.
The embattled gold-medal winner, subject to derision and a police charge that he filed a false report alleging a robbery at gunpoint while in Rio, is the celebrity lightning rod of the newest crop of Dancing With the Stars pairings revealed Tuesday on Good Morning America.
The varied celebrity field, which takes to the dance floor Sept. 12 (ABC, 8 ET/PT), includes another Olympic gold-medalist, gymnast Laurie Hernandez; former presidential candidate Rick Perry; Twitter-dominating model Amber Rose; and Marcia Brady herself, Maureen McCormick.
There’s big news on the professional side, with the return of fan favorites Maksim Chmerkovskiy, back after four seasons away; six-time champ Derek Hough; and the show’s first consecutive winner, Cheryl Burke, who will dance with Lochte.
The dance competition had been asking Lochte for years to participate, the swimmer tells USA TODAY, but training previously took priority.
"Now that Rio is over, I have some down time finally where I can do stuff outside the pool. And so they reached out again, and I agreed," he says. "I love that competitive edge and I can transfer that over to Dancing With the Stars, because you're going to have to train every day and then you have that one shot to really compete."
Lochte, who was a member of a gold-medal-winning U.S. freestyle relay team, says he didn't have second thoughts about participating after controversy erupted around his claim of being robbed after a late-night party in Rio. Many people may not know what he's really like, he says.
"Hopefully, this show will definitely bring out my personality, you know, laid back, go with the flow, (a) loving and caring person that likes to have fun and just enjoys the moment," he says.
Other celebrity-pro pairings also include Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy; Hernandez and Maksim’s brother, Valentin; Perry and Emma Slater; McCormick and Artem Chignitsev; Little Women: LA star Terra Jole and Sasha Farber; Taxi’s Marilu Henner and Hough; rapper and TV host Vanilla Ice and Witney Carson; recently retired NFL star received Calvin Johnson and Lindsay Arnold; actor Jake T. Austin (The Fosters, Wizards of Waverly Place) and Jenna Johnson; singer-songwriter-producer Babyface and Allison Holker; race car driver James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess; and actress-singer Jana Kramer (One Tree Hill) and Gleb Savchenko.
“We knew the Olympics were coming and there was an election around the corner (and) we wanted to grab some headlines from those areas,” executive producer Rob Wade tells USA TODAY.
Hernandez was booked before the Olympics and talks had started with Lochte before the Games.
“We tried to book him. We spoke to him and his people and they said, ‘Yeah, great.’ And a few days later, all the headlines began,” Wade says.
Henner comes to Dancing as a “rabid fan.”
“I keep telling people they were either going to let me do it finally or they were going to have to get a restraining order,” the actress says, praising the program for endorsing physical activity. “I’m all about motion. … I think it keeps you alive."