“You’re an idiot!”
That was Kevin O’Leary’s reaction when he heard Robert Herjavec was going to be a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. The reality competition returns for a 20th edition March 16 on ABC and M3.
For six years, the two venture capitalists have been swimming in the Shark Tank and before that they snorted at each other on Dragons’ Den. This is one time, however, when Herjavec will dance alone.
Even Herjavec is surprised he’s signed up for a celebrity dance competition. He’s never had any dancing experience and admits he’s the guy who always stayed bolted to his chair at weddings.
“I got invited to a party last night and I said, ‘I would love to go, but I have to dance.’ And my friend emails me back and says, ‘In 10 lifetimes, did you ever think those words would be in one sentence from you?’”
ABC likes to feature its own stars among the celebs and Herjavec’s name came up. The Canadian businessman checked out the ballroom last season, taking nervous note of the 600 spectators. At 52, he’s in top shape and the Shark Tank production schedule was a perfect fit for this two-step.
Tipping the balance was the fact that DWTS was his late mother’s favourite show. “She liked Shark Tank and she liked Dragons’ Den, but Dancing With the Stars, that was a big deal,” he says, wishing she were still around to see him become the dancing Dragon.
It took his team about a month to clear his schedule for a potential three-month run on the series. His Internet securities business has gone global with a new office in London. “Personally, I’m going through a divorce
, so a lot of change. I felt that doing this would be good for me.”
Herjavec’s own rags-to-riches story would make a good miniseries. His family fled what was then Yugoslavia in 1970. He’s a self-made man, so if you don’t think he’s in it to win it, think again.
“I’m a pretty extreme, go-for-it guy,” he says. Once he said yes, he started training. Herjavec is an avid runner and golfer, but he’s added weight training after speaking with former contestants Hines Ward, a former NFL star and DWTS champ, and fellow Shark Mark Cuban.
“They all said it’s harder physically than you think,” says Herjavec, who concentrated on his arm strength. “The feedback I got was that this is surprisingly hard on your arms.”
Drawing Kym Johnson as his pro dancer partner has been a huge plus, says Herjavec. The Australian is a two-time DWTS champion and, more importantly to Herjavec, “a great teacher.”
The two began rehearsing up to eight hours a day the Monday after the Oscars until Herjavec got a little carried away. After three days, Johnson tested him with a tricky move, which he nailed in his first attempt. “Of course, it went to my head and we tried it a second time, and I kicked her so hard she needed a medic,” says Herjavec.
He figures he has a shot given the competition.
Suzanne Somers, Patti LaBelle, Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore), Iraq war veteran Noah Galloway (who lost parts of two limbs), NFL free agent Michael Sam, young Hunger Games actress Willow Shields and 2008 Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin are all part of this 10th anniversary edition. Some are fan favourites who will likely drop out early, says Herjavec. Others pose a threat or, as Herjavec puts it, “I’m a shark. How in the world am I going to compete with a gymnast?”
While the entrepreneur cleared much of his schedule, the one thing he insisted on continuing to pursue was racing competitively
in the Ferrari Challenge series. Herjavec won the season opener at Daytona and has a shot at the championship.
Fortunately, the multi-millionaire has the resources to fly Johnson and the rest of his team to the racetrack and back while prepping for DWTS. What he’s not looking forward to, however, is “a weekend race with a bunch of car guys and then practising in the garage with Kym. That’s going to be uncomfortable.”
Originally posted from thestar.com on March 12, 2015