The fate of “Dancing With the Stars” is in the hands of the public, but if it were up to the judges, Kristi Yamaguchi and her partner, Mark Ballas, would take home the mirror ball trophy at Tuesday night’s final night of the show’s 6th season.
The former Olympic gold medalist in figure skating thrilled Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba with her two dances on Monday night – the side-by-side cha cha, (which all the contenders performed), and her glittery freestyle.
Jason Taylor, Latin heartthrob Cristian de la Fuente and Kristi, each performed several seconds of dancing with their professional partners as Lionel Richie’s “Dancing On The Ceiling” was covered by the house band, but at the end of the number, all three of them danced in a line.
It was Kristi’s performance though, that had the judges raving.
“Kristi, you are in a class of your own. You are now ‘Dancing With the Stars,’” Bruno enthused.
“When you watch all three of you back to back, you really do get to see who is the best … Kristi… it’s ladies night. You won that hands down!” Carrie Ann added.
And when it came down to judges marks for the first round, Kristi took home the top prize, netting a perfect score.
“I’m up for the challenge and we’re gonna go for it,” Kristi said at the end of the round. “No holds barred tonight.”
The skater — in a glittery pant suit — took on a freestyle dance full of jumps, kicks, flips and swings with Mark for Round 2.
“My god, that was such an inspiring fusion of mambo and hip-hop,” Bruno raved. “You did not miss a beat… You made it look easy.”
Even Len, who in the past has been tough in judging the freestyle, found himself impressed.
“I’m not a lover of hip hop when it’s in a Latin dance, but for me this held my attention from start to finish,” Len said. “It was slick, it was quick, it had energy in abundance. I absolutely loved it!”
After another perfect score for Kristi, Jason and Edyta took to the floor for their freestyle, which saw Jason end the dance shirtless.
“Who knew Jason Taylor [could] get funky… I thought it was fantastic,” Carrie Ann said.
“The lifts were fantastic … I could see us in South Beach — you in your Speedos, me in me thong,” Len joked.
The couple’s score was high, but at 27 out of 30, failed to match Kristi’s second perfect score.
Cristian and Cheryl took to the stage last, performing a Latin-infused freestyle, but the judges were not as impressed as they were with Cristian’s competitors.
“I love the Latin-American flavor you brought to the whole dance,” Len said. “As far as I was concerned, some of the lifts weren’t quite up to the standards of [the other two].”
“I don’t know how to say this, but [with] the freestyle we’re looking for who’s gonna win this,” Carrie Ann said. “I don’t know if either one of you compared to Kristi tonight, but I see a winner in so many other ways… You never gave up.”