Shawn Johnson Becomes Cutest “Dancing” Winner Yet

Shawn Johnson is adding a mirrorball trophy to her collection of Olympic medals. After all, the two glittering prizes seem to go very well together.

The 17-year-old gymnast was named "Dancing With the Stars" champion Tuesday during the season finale of the hit ABC show, the third Olympian in eight seasons to win.

Johnson and her professional partner, Mark Ballas, held the mirrorball trophy aloft as the rest of the contestants rushed out to greet them, hoisting the couple on their shoulders as sparkling confetti flew.

"This has been the best experience ever," Johnson said after her victory. "I've grown so much."

Johnson was tied with fellow finalist Gilles Marini after Melissa Rycroft was dismissed earlier in Tuesday's show.

All three finalists performed one last dance, each earning a perfect score of 30 from the judges. Viewer votes are combined with judges' scores to determine the "Dancing" champ.

Show host Tom Bergeron said "less than 1 percent" separated the two finalists.

"This has been, without a doubt the best season ever," said head judge Len Goodman. "We've got the three best dancers here in the final."

Johnson, holding a trophy almost half as tall as she is, celebrated with friends and fans after the show.

"This means the world to me," she said. "I can officially say I'm a dancer, and that's amazing to me."

Johnson is the third Olympic gold medalist to win the "Dancing" crown. Ice skaters Kristi Yamaguchi and Apolo Anton Ohno have previously taken the show's trophy.

As Ohno noted on Monday's show, "There's no Olympian who's made the finals and not won the show."

Ballas shared the mirrorball with Yamaguchi last year.

Johnson had a scare in March when a 34-year-old man allegedly tried to break onto the "Dancing With the Stars" set, apparently to meet her. Police say Robert O'Ryan, who remains in custody on a stalking charge, jumped a fence at the studio lot after driving from Florida in a car loaded with guns, duct tape and love letters to Johnson. Filings by her parents said the incident caused her to fear for her safety.

But Johnson shook off the incident and used her athleticism to better effect with each passing week, looking less like the rigid, overwhelmed and underaged gymnast that first emerged and more like a powerful yet graceful dancer as she gained confidence.

"I'm so happy for Shawn and Mark," Marini said. "They worked so hard."

Marini regularly topped the judges' leaderboard throughout the show's 11 weeks of competition. But even without the trophy, he said he feels like a winner.

"This has been the most surreal, craziest, most amazing experience of my life," the French actor said after the show. Making it to the finals means "you accept me into this culture," he said, adding that job offers have been pouring in throughout the season.

Rycroft, who was infamously jilted on this season of "The Bachelor," said she was just grateful for the experience. "Eleven weeks ago, nobody knew who I was," she said.

Former contestant and insult comic Jeffrey Ross came back for a little comic relief, roasting the three finalists, calling them, "the underage, the unwed and the unpronounceable."

Tuesday's season finale also featured a performance by Lady Gaga and the finale of the new pro-dancer competition. Anna Damidova competed with three other professional dancers for a spot on next season's "Dancing With the Stars."

Previously dismissed celebrities — including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, rodeo champ Ty Murray, funnyman Steve-O, singer Belinda Carlisle, rapper Lil Kim, former football star Lawrence Taylor, country singer Chuck Wicks, reality star Holly Madison, and actors David Alan Grier and Denise Richards — returned for a last dance.

While Johnson was paid increasingly by the episode, she got nothing extra for taking the mirrorball trophy, according to court documents filed in Los Angeles.

Because she's under 18, Johnson had to have a judge approve a minor's contract to participate in "Dancing." That agreement spelled out that Johnson receives $125,000 for being a contestant, and made significantly more per week the longer she lasted: For weeks three and four, Johnson received $10,000 per week; $20,000 per week for weeks five, six and seven; $30,000 for weeks eight and nine; and for the final two weeks, she received $50,000 a week — but no winning bonus.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us