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[WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Tuesday’s Dancing With the Stars finale.]
For the first time in 18 seasons, veteran professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and his Olympian Gold Medalist partner Meryl Davis, took home the Mirror Ball Trophy in Tuesday night’s Dancing With the Stars finale.
The internationally renowned Latin Ballroom Dance champion made it to the finals four times prior to his season 18 win and was candid about how emotionally taxing his journey has been. “Emotionally, I have no idea how this is possible twice. Derek did it five times and was the first person that I spoke to after Meryl…Maybe we’re different in the way that he can do the job. I have to connect with the person. And when I connect, it’s do or die. When the season is over, I’m depleted.”
Though admittedly tired at the conclusion of his 14th season on the show, the effort and ingenuity dedicated to his choreography and training was applauded by Chmerkovskiy’s professional peers.
Valentin Chmerkovskiy expressed his brotherly support and excitement for his siblings’ achievement: “It’s a win not only for him and Meryl, but it’s a win for our entire family…he’s committed to seeing other people succeed and have these moments and for me personally, it was really important to see him finally experience that.”
Third runner up Mark Ballas, who closed out season 18 with partner Candace Cameron Bure and has been friends with Chmerkovskiy since childhood, also showed his support for the victory. “[Maks] really put in amazing work this season. You know, if you’re judging the competition based on dancing this season, the right guy won,” Ballas said, adding, “It was his turn. He deserved it. He worked his ass off and his collection of pieces and work this season was outstanding. I’m really proud of him.”
Audiences, judges and Chmerkovskiy’s fellow professional dancers were enamored throughout the season by the apparent kinship connection with Davis — a relationship unlike any he had shared in competition history —and the compassionate side of the Ukranian coach rarely seen.
Charlie White shared excitement for his Olympic partner, who he hoisted in the air after Davis was announced as the celebrity winner. “We wouldn’t be here without each other and I was just so proud of what she was able to do on the dance floor. It was just ridiculous—so thrilled,” White said. “I don’t want to belittle the Mirror Ball Trophy, because I know firsthand what it took to get here was incredibly difficult. The Olympic gold medal might hang a little bit higher, but this is undoubtedly something to be proud of.”
Paralympian Amy Purdy and Derek Hough took second place in the season 18 competition and jointly agreed on their excitement for the Mirror Ball winners. “What an amazing ending to a beautiful beautiful season. Couldn’t be more proud or more happy to see Maks and Meryl hold that trophy up. It’s a long time coming,” Hough said.
The finale brought back each of the season’s celebrity performer’s for a final dance with their partners, including fan favorite James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd’s freestyle and Danica McKellar and Valentin Chmerkovskiy’s Beauty and the Beast Disney week rendition. Australian female rapper Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande, Charli XCX, Christina Perri and former contestant Cody Simpson also performed during the live competition.
While Chmerkovskiy, and judge Len Goodman, is undecided if he will return for another season of DWTS as a professional dancer, he is savoring the sweet taste of success. “It was [an] abundance of emotion from everybody and I feel it. It’s brilliant.”
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