By Aly Semigran
Updated May 25, 2011 at 08:20 PM EDT

If you count Helio Castroneves and Nicole Scherzinger as athletes — and, as any race or dance enthusiast will tell you, they most certainly are — then 7 of the 12 champions from Dancing With the Stars are from the wide world of sports. (In your face, all you super tough actors and boy band members!)

With Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward bringing home the glittery disco ball last night, it’s easy to wonder if the reality show’s athlete stars have an advantage on the show. After all, they do have a major foot up, thanks to years of vigorous physical training, which sometimes includes dance. (I’m fairly certain all pro football players are sanctioned by the NFL to know and perform the Super Bowl Shuffle on command.) And as as most late night talk show hosts have been quick to point out, Kirstie Alley wasn’t nearly as athletic as her DWTS counterpart Ward, so did she even have a fighting chance to take the whole thing? Did Hines, like Shawn Johnson and Emmitt Smith before him, come in with physical capabilities the other contestants simply couldn’t compete with? Or was he, like them, just a better dancer?

Of course, that’s not to say athletes are a shoe-in: Football legend Jerry Rice was outperformed by 98 Degrees member Drew Lachey and fellow pigskin champ Warren Sapp was bested by actress Brooke Burke. Still, most of the final three — and, subsequently, the DWTS champs — have been in shape long before their dance partners had to whip them into it.

I’m curious to know what you think though, PopWatchers. Do athletes have an incredibly toned leg up on the competition on DWTS? Let loose in the comments section below!

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