Jennie Finch, a retired softball star who won two Olympic medals, and her partner Keo Motsepe survived the first two weeks of an all-athlete Dancing With The Stars — despite a last-minute change in their song this week. Despite the wrench that Finch threw into their plans when she decided she wasn’t comfortable dancing to Janelle Monae’s ‘Make Me Feel’, Motsepe said he’s having a great time working with Finch this season.
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“I think the season especially with Jennie, working with an athlete is the best thing ever because she’s a perfectionist. So everything she does she wants it to be perfect…It’s a blessing and also pressure,” said Motsepe. “A lot of pressure and a lot of hard work.”
This interview has been condensed.
Jennie, how do you think being a professional athlete helps on ‘DWTS’?
JF: I think as far as us being perfectionist and our competitive spirit within helps us and our body awareness I think transfers over. Obviously I’m not a performer so I don’t have that side of it but I do think as athletes we’re trying to get the most out of our bodies, we’re trying to get be the most effective that we can be and trying to bring that all together, I think that can relate.
Take me through what happened last week. Can you take me through when you realized you weren’t comfortable with the song and what was it about the song? And how were you able to say ‘I don’t feel comfortable doing this?’
JF: So we had the song and there were a couple of words that I just wasn’t OK with. When I hit that stage I wanted to represent who I am and there’s so much music out there and I just didn’t feel comfortable — I wouldn’t let my kids listen to that song, so I just, i don’t know. For me and our family, I felt like I should change the song. I couldn’t go through with it. Keo stepped up to the plate in a big way because it fell on him to change the choreography and the song and everything.
But ultimately you know we all have to do and follow our heart and that’s what I tried to do.
What’s the reaction been like so far?
JF: To be honest I think the biggest thing is is people are thrilled I was just true to myself and that’s what I would hope for anybody and whatever their beliefs are and whoever they are and but ultimately I wasn’t doing it for any of those reasons, it was just for me, internally and my family.
So other than that dramatic moment how has ‘Dancing With The Stars’ been? Is it what you expected?
JF: It’s pretty intense but i’m so pleased and it’s truly a family atmosphere from Keo to the producers to the sound crew to the hair and makeup. It’s almost like a fantasy Monday world as far as hair and makeup and all of that and there’s a lot of hard work in between, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot of fun.
And everybody is so kind and loving and it’s just a real family atmosphere and I’ve just truly enjoyed my experience and my time getting to know everybody. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to be able to learn from somebody who is the best at what they do and to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself in a way that I never even thought would be possible.
How does Keo compare to other coaches you’ve had for softball?
JF: Keo’s a joy. he’s just a joy. he tries to be tough and firm but he’s a softie.
KM: Oh my god.
JF: He says ‘again’ a lot. ‘Again. Again. Again.’ But other than though — and I’m ready for that and that isn’t really an issue. We only have a couple of days to learn each of our dances. But he is on, especially big 3, and in this version of ‘Dancing With The Stars’, it’s only four weeks. It’s not like you have the normal 12 week seasons where you have time to get your feet wet and only one person goes home. Four people have already been eliminated, this week three people are going home. It’s brutal as far as eliminations are happening and happening fast.
What can we expect on the next episode?
KM: You can expect great and emotions and a softer Jennie and some beautiful dancing. I think Jennie week one and week two, she came out very strong and powerful, and now we get to see the vulnerable side of her. So I think you are in for a treat.