September 22, 2008 in Features

Her spikes now are high heels

By Sandy Cohen Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Misty May-Treanor
(Full-size photo)

Misty May-Treanor just won back-to-back gold medals in beach volleyball, but all she can think about is dancing.

“Every time I wake up, it’s like I can’t wait to dance,” the Olympian says after wrapping a three-hour rehearsal at a dance studio here.

“I can’t wait to get back in there to see if things soaked in overnight.”

As a contestant on the seventh season of “Dancing With the Stars,” which premieres tonight (8 p.m., ABC), May-Treanor has traded the beach for the ballroom.

Her swimsuit and bare feet have been replaced with swingy skirts and high-heeled shoes. And the 31-year-old athlete is loving every minute of it.

“I followed the show and I never thought in a million years that I’d be a participant,” May-Treanor says.

As she glides around the room, her heels hitting the wood floor in perfect time, she’s so graceful and elegant, it’s hard to believe that this is the same woman who’s known as a killer on the sand court.

May-Treanor learned she’d be joining the cast while she was in Beijing, where she and partner Kerri Walsh defeated China to win their second gold medal.

“She missed the closing ceremonies to come and start training with Maks,” executive producer Conrad Green says, referring to her professional dance partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

“He whisked her straight to rehearsal.”

May-Treanor says she’s eager to set her sport aside and focus on something new for a while.

“It is nice for me, especially playing for so long,” she says, adding that she hasn’t had a summer off since she was 11 years old.

She studied dance as a child in Los Angeles, fitting ballet, jazz and baton-twirling lessons in between soccer and volleyball practices.

The challenge now is shedding the powerful stance developed over years of dedicated sports training and recapturing that effortless, light-on-your-feet elegance.

She’ll be competing against singers Lance Bass and Toni Braxton; TV personalities Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian; actors Cloris Leachman, Cody Linley, Susan Lucci and Ted McGinley; comedian Jeffrey Ross; chef Rocco DiSpirito; NFL star Warren Sapp; and fellow gold medalist Maurice Greene.

Green says athletes have an advantage.

“They know how to train. They’re used to taking orders and they’re used to pushing their bodies,” he says, noting that two Olympic gold medalists – Kristi Yamaguchi and Apolo Anton Ohno – have won past competitions.

Would taking home the mirrorball trophy herald a new career for the volleyball star?

“Right now I’m busy with this and having a great time, so if something comes out of it, then something comes out of it,” May-Treanor says.

“But that’s not what I’m looking for. It’s not like I hope from this I’m going to be a reality-show (regular). I’m just doing it to learn something new and have fun.”

The birthday bunch

Actor Paul Le Mat (“American Graffiti”) is 62. Singer David Coverdale (Whitesnake, Deep Purple) is 57. Actress Shari Belafonte is 54. Singer Debby Boone is 52. Singer Joan Jett is 50. Opera singer Andrea Bocelli is 50. Actress Catherine Oxenberg is 47. Actor Scott Baio is 47. Actor Rob Stone (“Mr. Belvedere”) is 46. Actor Tom Felton (“Harry Potter” films) is 21.

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