updated 09/23/2013 AT 8:00 PM ET
•originally published 09/23/2013 AT 3:35 PM ET
Karina Smirnoff is a former Dancing with the Stars champion, winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy in season 13 with J.R. Martinez. The longtime competitor will blog for PEOPLE about competing with former High School Musical star Corbin Bleu in season 17.
I feel great right now. I think we’re in a great place. I thought our contemporary routine was pretty cool and I thought we nailed what Corbin [Bleu] and I wanted to do. It showed potential and it showed that there’s room to grow. We wanted to take some risks with lifts and I think overall, it paid off. We were in the second position with Val [Chmerkovskiy] and Elizabeth [Berkley]. I think that’s a great place to start.
I think, though, if we were able to do this dance later on in the season, we would have been able to a better job with it, because we would have been more used to each other and each other’s timing and body weight. It’s hard to gauge scoring. I wonder if they’re judging us against other couples or against contemporary dances done in previous seasons? You can’t control what the judges do, but you can control what you put out there.
With this dance, there was very little room for error. If we were a little too aggressive or a little too mellow, we could have wiped out and the lift would have been a disaster. That’s where the nerves came in. We were a little shaky on that lift, because I think with adrenaline, we didn’t position ourselves the best way. Usually in rehearsal, the lift would be solid.