It might just be the first night, but one thing's for sure. Maksim Chmerkovskiy is one happy man
Chmerkovskiy and Hope Solo established themselves as major contenders for the coveted Mirror Ball trophy Monday in the Season 13 opener of "Dancing with the Stars," finishing with 21 points and alone in third place following a stellar Viennese Waltz performance inside the show's new, glamorous ballroom.
Chmerkovskiy and Solo posted scores of 7 across the board with judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Toniolo, even though it looked as if the pair missed the finishing move of the performance.
"I loved everything about tonight's performance," Chmerkovskiy told us exclusively tonight via phone following his performance with Solo. "Even the mishaps, because all the mistakes are a learning experience and add to how much better next week's dance will be."
Solo, looking absolutely beautiful in a dress that completely complimented and accentuated the United States women's soccer star's fit, toned body, had a brilliant connection with Chmerkovskiy from start to finish in their Viennese Waltz performance.
And it didn't go unnoticed by an elated Inaba, who praised the two over their body contact as they danced to Dave Matthews Band hit, "Satellite," also one of the best songs of the evening.
Chmerkovskiy was all compliments when asked about Solo and her debut on the dancefloor as they staked claim as a top contender after just one dance this season.
"Hope looked amazing," Chmerkovskiy told us. "I'm very proud that she embraced the experience on behalf of all the amazing female athletes (of the world)."
Solo and Chmerkovskiy danced eighth on opening night, following Val Chmerkovskiy and Italian actress/model Elisabetta Canalis, who didn't have as strong of a start en route to a score of 15 points.
However, Tony Dovolani - the Chmerkovskiy brothers' close friend - had a huge season debut with celebrity partner Chynna Phillips. Dovolani and Phillips posted a score of 22 in their Viennese Waltz, performed to Alicia Keys' song, "If I Ain't Got You," which was good for a share of first place.
"Dancing with the Stars" returns Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC, with all couples hoping to not be sent home after the first week of action.
Solo and Chmerkovskiy will perform the Jive in Week Two, which will be aired September 26 and September 27 on ABC.
- Jeremy Pond, Publsiher