Seventeen-year-old Olympic champion Shawn Johnson and professional dance partner Mark Ballas were speechless when they were named the winners in the Dancing with the Stars finale. They beat out Frenchman Gilles Marini and his professional dance partner Cheryl Burke by less than 1%, the closest finish in Dancing with the Stars’ eight seasons. Coming in third were cheerleader Melissa Rycroft and professional dance partner Tony Dovolani.
Each couple was allowed to pick their final dance for tonight’s competition. Gilles and Melissa each chose numbers that had previously earned them perfect scores. Shawn chose to repeat the dance that earned her the first ten she received, though the score had only been 28 the first time out.
After performing their routine, head judge Len Goodman told Shawn “the longer you go, the stronger you get. In recent weeks, Carrie Ann said, “you’ve powered your way to the top”. Bruno praised her continually excellent technique. This time her dancing earned a perfect 30.
When the announcement came, Shawn and Mark were truly stunned. Minutes passed with Mark covering his mouth in disbelief while the studio erupted with cheers. Hoisted on the shoulders of fellow stars and dancers, Shawn and Mark held their trophy high as dance floor filled with family, friends and cast mates.
Gilles never flinched. He smiled and immediately offered his congratulations, proving what a classy guy he is. He praised his partner Cheryl Burke and credited her for teaching him to dance, helping him and helping his family. He said earlier in the show that he never wants to stop dancing.
Melissa Rycroft was praised by judge Carrie Ann for having brought out the best in her partner Tony. Coming into the Dancing with the Stars season with only two days of rehearsal, Melissa was not expected to do half as well as she ultimately did. She was quoted by host Samantha Harris as having said she didn’t care if she didn’t win because she couldn’t believe she was even here at the finals.
A season finale tradition on Dancing with the Stars is the roundup of the seasons’ other star contestants and their partners. Everyone came back and danced with their professional dance partner one last time. Amazingly, everyone showed improvement. Everyone except Lawrence Taylor whose jive with Edyta Sliwinska clearly showed he’d rather be playing golf.
Other highlights of Dancing with the Stars finale were Lady Gaga performing Just Dance and Love Game and the announcement of next season’s new professional dancer. Anna Demidova won the spot after dancing in competitions on the show over the last several weeks.
Jeffrey Ross, a former contestant, returned to roast the judges, the hosts, the stars already eliminated and the finalists. Greeting Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno he called them his three favorite judges – Smokin’, Croakin’ and Flaming. Noting that the three finalists were not well-known celebrities, he suggested the name of the show should be Dancing with the Vaguely Familiar.
The popularity of the show is huge. Even those who don’t watch Dancing with the Stars know about the show. With seasons as closely contested this one, it is certain to be around for many more. Congratulations to Shawn and Mark and thanks to all who dance and make Monday nights such a treat.