Kristi Yamaguchi came into the “Dancing With the Stars” finale with a perfect score and left with the mirrorball trophy.
The figure skater’s victory Tuesday over pro football star Jason Taylor broke the string of four consecutive male winners. She was the first woman to claim the “Dancing” crown since the show’s opening season.
“This is definitely for all those women out there to continue to be strong,” Yamaguchi said after the show, hoisting the trophy above her head.
Taylor said he was surprised to make it to the finals and “thrilled” to come in second.
“If you’ve got to finish anywhere besides first, second place is the best you can get,” he said, adding that Yamaguchi deserved to win. “And we got a perfect score to go out with, so I’m happy. I’m done dancing.”
Cristian de la Fuente was the first to be eliminated during the season finale. The actor, who ruptured a tendon in his biceps while performing on the show April 28, delayed the surgery necessary to repair it so he could continue on the hit ABC dance-off.
Like Taylor, he said he was just happy to reach the finals.
“That was our objective,” he said. “Kristi is the best dancer ever. It was impossible to beat her. We’re happy that she won. This is so good for the show.
Yamaguchi was clearly the most talented dancer on this season’s show, but it’s been hard for women to take the “Dancing” crown. With a viewership that’s 75 percent women — a fact not lost on Taylor and de la Fuente, who never shied from brazen displays of bare skin and sex appeal — the hit ABC show still had plenty of suspense for the final episode.
“You obviously have to get the technique, but (also) compete with the personalities that all the boys have,” Yamaguchi told The Associated Press after Monday’s performances. “I think their smiles and their personalities melt hearts across the country.”
Figure-skating champ Yamaguchi got a perfect score of 60 on Monday’s show, and has regularly topped the judges’ scoreboard throughout season six. She and Taylor each earned perfect scores of 30 for their final dances on Tuesday’s show.
But viewer votes count just as much, and the combination is what determines the winner.
Taylor landed in last place with 51 points Monday. His partner, Edyta Sliwinska, maximized Taylor’s sex appeal — and perhaps his votes — by tearing off his shirt at the end of their final dance Monday.
“The majority of the audience are females and they probably vote a lot more than guys,” Sliwinska said. “I guess those beautiful bodies and gorgeous guys make them easy to vote for.”
Past winners include race-car driver Helio Castroneves, Olympic speed-skater Apolo Anton Ohno, NFL star Emmitt Smith, 98 Degrees singer Drew Lachey and actress Kelly Monaco.