Four-time Paralympic medalist Victoria Arlen is set to appear on the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars, per an early report from Entertainment Tonight.
The 22-year-old Arlen won a gold and three silver medals at the 2012 Paralympics in London, winning the S6 100 freestyle for the United States. The jump to a competitive dancing competition is especially significant for Arlen, given she had to re-learn how to walk in 2016 after spending 10 years paralyzed from her waist down.
Arlen developed two health conditions when she was 11 – transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. The rare conditions caused her to lose the ability to not just walk, but move at all. In an ESPNW piece from 2016, Arlen says her limbs stopped functioning, and soon she slipped into a vegetative state. She describes the effect, saying “everything went dark,” and saying two years later she woke up, unable to move or speak at all, but aware of the conversations happening around her.
In 2009, she first made eye contact with her mother. She slowly regained her ability to speak, and to make the smallest movements with her hands. But even as her upper body began to return to normal, Arlen remained paralyzed from the waist down, with doctors saying that swelling had caused permanent damage to her spinal cord.
By 2012, Arlen had become a Paralympic champion with Team USA at the age of 17, and in 2015 she joined ESPN as a sportscaster. It was only about a year and a half ago that Arlen started walking again, and this fall, she’s reportedly among the contestants on the ABC show Dancing With the Stars.
Entertainment Tonight reports that Arlen will be paired with Val Chmerkoviskiy. Though ABC hasn’t yet confirmed her involvement or released the full cast, the report also suggests Drew Scott of Property Brothers and married couple Vanessa and Nick Lachey will be among the other celebrities cast for the show’s 25th season.
Update: the cast has officially been announced by ABC on Wednesday, September 6. Arlen tweeted out her excitement to compete that morning:
I am beyond grateful and excited to be paired with this incredible human on Dancing With The Stars Season 25 @iamValC #DWTS 🕺🏻💃🏻 pic.twitter.com/8HbPnzIeK1
— Victoria Arlen (@Arlenv1) September 6, 2017