Light reality or serious sport, asks Calum Henderson.

The year 2018 is a bit of a quiet one for sport in New Zealand. There are no major rugby or cricket world cups, we didn't qualify for the soccer one, and the next summer Olympics is still two years away. Thank goodness, then, for Dancing With the Stars.

This season of Three's popular celebrity dancing show would have to rank among the year's top five New Zealand sporting events - the only things that surpass it for sure are the Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympics.

In terms of exciting and inspiring the nation, it probably has a slight edge over Super Rugby.

No way, you might be thinking. "Dancing With the Stars is not a sport and it never will be. You utter, utter moron."


But did you see it last weekend? It has everything sport has - and more.

Blood, sweat and tears. Adversity; underdogs triumphed against impossible odds. The rules were pushed, and furious anger was directed toward the officials.

Naz revealed that during the week she had been "literally dead" from a bout of the flu. Like Michael Jordan during the 1997 NBA finals, she played on. The former Bachelor contestant came out first on Sunday night and danced a tango every bit as miraculous as Jordan's famous Flu Game.

The physical toll of competitive ballroom dancing is up there with any other sport.

Newsreader Samantha Hayes revealed that her feet were "ripped to pieces, covered in sticking plasters" from trying to learn her samba all week. Social media influencer Jess Quinn seems to be dancing through a serious rib injury that could rival Richie McCaw's broken foot in 2011.

Zac Franich does the waltz on Dancing With The Stars

Speaking of McCaw, it was he who taught us that to be the best in sport you have to push the boundaries, test the limits of the laws. Zac from The Bachelor and his cunning partner Kristie did just that by flooding the dancefloor with dry ice, obscuring the judges' view of their all-important footwork in the Viennese waltz. And it worked! They got a standing ovation from two of the judges and were scored the competition's first nine by the easily hoodwinked Camilla.

Underdogs? Look no further than cricket legend Chris Harris, who bounced back from an awkward week one dance with a staggeringly beautiful foxtrot. The crowd favourite, though, might be the fierce politician Marama Fox - listen to the way the studio erupted with contempt for judge Rachel when she dared suggest Fox's dancing was "not up to the standard" of the other dancers. In that moment, Rachel must have truly known how it felt to be Wayne Barnes.

What we are watching here isn't mere light reality entertainment - it's called Dancesport. That's the umbrella term for competitive dancing as coined by the World Dance Council, which has been trying to get Dancesport into the Olympics for years. Intensely amateur as Dancing With the Stars may be, it goes to illustrate that it's a bid that deserves to be taken seriously.