Melissa Rycroft: I'm "More Motivated" to Win Dancing With the Stars Now That I'm a Mom

Entertainment Sep. 25, 2012 AT 7:30PM
TV personality Melissa Rycroft and daughter Ava Grace Strickland attend LG's "20 Magic Minutes: A Family Affair" hosted by Christina Applegate at a private residence on June 23, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.  TV personality Melissa Rycroft and daughter Ava Grace Strickland attend LG's "20 Magic Minutes: A Family Affair" hosted by Christina Applegate at a private residence on June 23, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. Credit: David Livingston/Getty Images

Melissa Rycroft is in it to win it on Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars!

Returning to compete on the ABC hit's 15th season alongside her season 8 pro partner Tony Dovolani, former Bachelor contestant Rycroft, 29, tells Us Weekly a lot of things have changed since fans saw her compete in 2009, when she finished in third place. Chief among them: She got married, had a daughter (Ava, 19 months), and totally revamped her DWTS strategy.

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"I'm more motivated [this season]. If I'm going to be away from my kid, I'm going to focus," Rycroft -- who tied the knot with Ava's dad, insurance agent Tye Strickland, in 2009 -- said backstage after she and Dovolani performed a foxtrot and earned 21 points out of 30.

Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani
Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Placing Ava in daycare while she and Dovolani practice at a Los Angeles dance studio, Rycroft is striving to put her daughter first throughout her time on DWTS. "That's just what every working mother tries to work out - how to juggle. [Now] I see her 20 hours a day as opposed to 24!" Rycroft explained. "But she's definitely my priority and my motivation."

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Dovolani -- who has been partnered with celebs including Kate Gosselin and Wendy Williams in the past on DWTS -- has certainly noticed an improvement in Rycroft and how she approaches DWTS rehearsals.

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"She's so much more focused! Before, I thought her attention span was like a mosquito. Now she comes in, she's ready, she wants to do it," Dovolani told Us after their Monday performance. "I was just as nervous as Melissa going out there but I'm so proud of what we did."

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