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She's a superstar

6/23/2009
ABC/Adam Larkey

An NFL wideout, a WNBA center and a freestyle skier walk into a bar.

No, seriously. Terrell Owens, Lisa Leslie and Kristi Leskinen walk into the bar at the Atlantis Resort & Casino in the Bahamas after a long day of competition. No punch line.

The trio, along with five other athletes and eight celebrities, spent two weeks in May at the resort filming the latest reincarnation of ABC's "The Superstars," a reality show that first aired in the mid-1970s and pits two-man athlete-celeb teams against one another in a series of random athletic competitions.

"I was thrilled to be the female action sports rep on the show," Leskinen says. "It will show people we can hold our ground in all sports, against all types of athletes." (Bode Miller, a return competitor on this summer's show, won the last incarnation in 2002.) The show premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET with one couple eliminated from competition each week until the finale show on July 28.

We think Leskinen has a good shot at going the distance. She's one of the most well-rounded athletes in the competition, and her celebrity partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy from "Dancing With the Stars," is the top athlete on the celeb list. (Paige Hemmis, Ali Landry, Joanna Krupa and Estella Warren aren't much competition for the ballroom king.)

Leskinen grew up swimming, playing basketball, running track, wakeboarding and water skiing when she wasn't snow skiing. And when she found out she was being tapped as a "Superstars" competitor, she put down the skis and flew to Phoenix to train at home for three weeks. Maks was fresh off his turn on the latest season of DWTS.

"I went into the show confident that whatever they threw at me, I would be able to handle it," Leskinen says. "When I got there, I had a one-track mind: How can I win the next challenge?"

Of course, she can't talk show specifics for fear of giving away how long she remained on the island, but she was able to dish on her overall experience. And we're no reality show experts, but we think she's in for the long haul. Her team's no joke.

How did you prepare for the show?

I was still in the middle of my season, but I had hurt my knee at my contest in Pennsylvania a month earlier. I knew I had to be in top form for the show, so I put my skis in the closet and went to Arizona for three weeks to train. I did a ton of cardio and made a guess at what kind of events we would do on the show. I made a trip to California to visit Oakley headquarters, and while I was there, I rented a kayak and paddled around the harbor. I went to a climbing gym. I shot hoop, ran a lot, biked and swam.

What did you think when you found out Maks was your partner?

I didn't find out until I got down there. The producers didn't know how they were going to pair us until they met us all. To be honest, I had no idea who Maks was until I met him. The only reality show I watch is "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Did the other athletes know who you were?

No. We watch their sports on TV. They don't necessarily watch mine. So I knew a lot more about them than they knew about me. I had some videos of me skiing on my iPhone and showed them to everyone. I got the reaction you'd expect. "That's insane." T.O. said I was crazy. That seemed crazy to me.

OK, dish on your new celebrity friends. What was your impression of T.O.?

T.O. was a very nice guy and a high-performance machine. He is misunderstood a lot, and I'm sure he creates the drama that surrounds him, but he was genuine and really nice to all of us. I have a really fond memory of him wearing a swim cap and ridiculous goggles that his partner, Joanna Krupa, gave him. She's a supermodel, and she brought them because they wouldn't mess up her eye makeup so she would look good when she got out of the swim. She had enough personality for the both of them.

Did you hang out much with Bode?

Bode was really quiet. He will speak up if he doesn't like something. But other than that, he just does his thing.

Best part of the two weeks?

As an action sports athlete, to have this chance to meet so many stick-and-ball athletes was amazing. Brandi Chastain is in phenomenal shape. Lisa Leslie is amazing. I'm going to one of Lisa's games in L.A. the week of the premiere and have been in touch with Brandi. They're amazing women.

Are you a reality show regular now?

Nah. This was my dream reality show. I feel like my whole life ran up to this in a way. I was the kid who did every sport growing up, so to be put into a competition where we were competing in every sport was thrilling. The show was really honest and to the point and about the sports themselves. But at the same time, there was a lot of drama and inside jokes that won't come across on TV.

Drama?

Oh, there's drama in the Bahamas. When you pair people who don't see eye to eye, there is going to be drama. Fortunately, this was more about the sports. And I did a good job of staying out of the drama. The drama on my team wasn't nearly as exciting as the other stuff that happens. But you'll have to watch the show for that.

Alyssa Roenigk is a Senior Writer for ESPN The Magazine.