Shawn Johnson is the new Dancing champ

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">5.11.2009 -  Shawn Johnson and Marc Ballas.   &#40;ABC Photo&#41;</span></div>
May 20, 2009 6:59:29 AM PDT
Now that the "Dancing With the Stars" mirror-ball trophy has been awarded, the show's three finalists are looking to the future. Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, the show's youngest competitor ever at 17, was named the new "Dancing" champ Tuesday, beating out fellow finalists Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft. But with the show's 20 million weekly viewers, all three are enjoying newfound popularity.

"This has given me so many opportunities," Johnson said. "It opened up a whole new world that I've never even known about. It's just been the best experience ever."

Johnson has already taken on her next project, but her publicist declined to say what exactly the high school junior will do next.

Marini, a French actor best known for his shower scene in the "Sex and the City" movie, said job offers have been pouring in, but that's not why he signed up for the ABC dance-off.

"I really did the show toward seeing my daughter twirling around in a tutu. I thought she might like to see her daddy dancing on a big stage like that," he said. "That was, for me, the bigger thing. And then things come naturally workwise. And it's great, but I never thought about it."

The 33-year-old said he "turned down so many parts" during his 11 weeks of "Dancing."

Rycroft has more short-term plans.

"I'm going home," said the native Texan. "And I'm going to get a puppy."

The reality-show star (she was jilted on this season of "The Bachelor") said her boyfriend promised her a puppy if she reached the finals.

With a score two points behind Johnson and Marini, Rycroft was eliminated during Tuesday's two-hour finale, leaving her fellow competitors to vie for the trophy.

Johnson and Marini came into the final showdown tied with 58 points. Viewer votes were combined with judges' scores to determine the winner. Show host Tom Bergeron said the remaining finalists were separated by "less than 1 percent."

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 a rigid, underaged gymnast and more like a powerful yet graceful dancer as she gained confidence.

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.

A new season of "Dancing With the Stars" is slated for the fall.

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On the Net:

http://abc.go.com/primetime/dancingwiththestars/index?pnindex


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