Yamaguchi crowned Queen of DWTS

July 2, 2008 5:27:46 AM PDT
Kristi Yamaguchi came into the "Dancing With the Stars" finale with a perfect score and left with the mirrorball trophy. Her victory over pro football star Jason Taylor broke the string of four consecutive male winners. The figure-skating champion was the first woman to claim the "Dancing" crown since the show's opening season.

"This is just the icing on the cake," Yamaguchi said after her victory Tuesday night. "I honestly thank all the fans out there...everyone who's made this a dream experience."

Said Taylor: "I never, ever thought I would get to this point...Kristi is so deserving."

Each of the season's celebrity contestants returned to the ballroom for the season final. Tennis champ Monica Seles, magician Penn Jillette, radio personality Adam Carolla, R&B singer Mario and actors Marissa Jaret Winokur, Marlee Matlin, Priscilla Presley and Steve Guttenberg each reprised their last dances and talked about their time on the show.

Past champs, including Drew Lachey, Kelly Monaco and Helio Castroneves, also appeared.

Yamaguchi earned a perfect score of 60 for her two dances Monday, putting her far ahead of fellow finalists Cristian de la Fuente, who scored 52, and Taylor, who finished with 51.

Yamaguchi was clearly the most talented dancer on this season's show. But it has been hard for women to win. Men triumphed the past four seasons before Yamaguchi's victory. And with the current viewership 75 percent female, there was plenty of suspense heading into Tuesday's finals.

Each performed a freestyle routine, and the three finalists shared the floor for a group dance dubbed "the cha-cha face-off." Yamaguchi came out on top both times.

"It's ladies' night. You won that hands down," judge Carrie Ann Inaba told the Olympian after the group dance. Her perfect score easily bested de la Fuente's 26 points and Taylor's 24.

All three freestyle dances featured funky moves and lifts aplenty, but Yamaguchi tossed in some hip-hop grooves, a little Latin flair and even helped flip her professional partner, Mark Ballas.

"I'm going to call you Miss Synchronicity," said judge Bruno Tolioli, who received a kiss from Yamaguchi after one dance. "This was so demanding and so difficult, but you make it look easy. It's worthy of the championship for me."

Taylor's club-worthy routine earned 27 points and de la Fuente's Latin-flavored dance collected 26.

Finishing the season with two perfect scores was "unbelievable," Yamaguchi said: "We were so thrilled with the dances and the scores, we were like, 'Yes!' It's that extra little Tiger Woods fist-pump at the end."

Taylor and actor de la Fuente each said they wouldn't have changed a thing about their performances.

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In alphabetical order, the twelve stars and their professional dancers making their ballroom dancing debut are:

  • ADAM CAROLLA & JULIANNE HOUGH - Television and radio personality Adam Carolla is host of the Los Angeles based and nationally syndicated morning radio program, "The Adam Carolla Show."
  • CRISTIÁN DE LA FUENTE & CHERYL BURKE - Having started his acting career in his native Chile, the international film and television star's Spanish language projects include Univisión's miniseries "Como ama una mujer" and Sony television's "Reyes y Rey," which aired on Telemundo.
  • SHANNON ELIZABETH & DEREK HOUGH - Actress/model Shannon Elizabeth starred in the box office hits "American Pie" and "Scary Movie." Some of her other credits include "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," "Love Actually," "Cuts" and "That 70s Show."
  • STEVE GUTTENBERG & ANNA TREBUNSKAYA - Actor Steve Guttenberg has starred in blockbusters such as "Police Academy," "Three Men and a Baby," "Short Circuit" and "Cocoon," as well as such acclaimed dramatic hits as "Diner" and "The Boys from Brazil."
  • MARIO & KARINA SMIRNOFF - Twenty-one year-old, multi-platinum selling R&B/Pop singer and actor Mario is known for such hit singles as "Just a Friend (2002)" and "Let Me Love You."
  • MARLEE MATLIN & FABIAN SANCHEZ - Marlee Matlin received worldwide critical acclaim for her film debut in "Children of a Lesser God," for which she received the Academy Award(r) for Best Actress.
  • PENN JILLETTE & KYM JOHNSON - Penn Jillette is one-half of the famous illusionist team Penn & Teller. Penn & Teller have been performing together for thirty years and are currently headlining in their own theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
  • PRISCILLA PRESLEY & LOUIS VAN AMSTEL - Actress, producer and entrepreneur Priscilla Presley starred in the "Naked Gun" films and the internationally popular television series "Dallas," as well as guest-starred on TV's "Touched by an Angel," "Spin City" and "Melrose Place."
  • MONICA SELES & JONATHAN ROBERTS - Tennis champ Monica Seles is the holder of nine grand slam singles titles and was the top-ranked player in the world. She turned pro in 1988 at the age of 14 and won her first grand slam championship, the French Open, just two years later.
  • JASON TAYLOR & EDYTA SLIWINSKA - This year's NFL Man of the Year Award winner and last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Taylor has played defensive end for the Miami Dolphins for over a decade.
  • MARISSA JARET WINOKUR & TONY DOVOLANI - Marissa Jaret Winokur is best known for creating the role of "Tracy Turnblad" in the hit Broadway musical "Hairspray," a performance for which she won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress.
  • KRISTI YAMAGUCHI & MARK BALLAS - An Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion, Kristi Yamaguchi is one of the most popular and successful figure skaters of our time.

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