Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson now has Dancing’s “coveted mirror ball trophy” to add to her medal collection. The seventeen-year-old and her professional partner Mark Ballas beat Sex and the City star Gilles Marini and The Bachelor contestant Melissa Rycroft in the show’s closest ever finish, with less than 1% of the votes separating first and second place.
Monday night, Shawn and Mark (a.k.a. “Team Shark”) performed the only perfect-scoring freestyle number, a combination of all the dances learned this season plus some youthful tricks. Judge Bruno Tonioli enjoyed it so much that he pretended to give a score of eleven. Despite the acclaim, the Sharks finished in a tie at fifty-eight points with runners-up Gilles and Cheryl. Melissa and her partner Tony Dovolani claimed third place both that night and overall.
Shawn Johnson is the third Olympian to win the show, joining Apolo Anton Ohno (season four) and another of Mark Ballas’ partners, Kristi Yamaguchi (season six). Tonight, the now two-time winner Mark seemed shocked to hear host Tom Bergeron call his and Shawn’s names.
All six finalists will appear tomorrow on Good Morning America.
The results of the first-ever Pro Dancer Competition were also announced tonight. Anna Demidova defeated Mayo Alanen for the chance to dance with a celebrity next season.
She was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and took ballet when she was a child. Too much experience?
Professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy (“Maks”) thinks so. According to an interview shown on TVguide.com, he considers Melissa to be a dancer and thus having an unfair advantage. Other pros seemed to agree in a report by Access Hollywood (whose own Nancy O’Dell was the star replaced by Melissa); a couple of them even said she’s good enough to replace them!
Most stars step into the ballroom with little more than a new pair of dancing shoes—and it usually shows. Just watch Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who judge Bruno Tonioli said looked like a “Teletubbie going mad” after his first dance. Yet Melissa stunned the audience and judges with her waltz after signing up only two days before the premiere.
Other stars have had to fight cries of disqualification in the past. Seasons 4 and 6 champions Apolo Anton Ohno and Kristi Yamaguchi, respectively, were called out for their skating backgrounds, which made them naturally nimbler and more graceful than their opponents.
But footwork isn’t everything in dancing. Kristi had some problems with the characters and emotion of each dance, especially putting on the right faces. It hasn’t been easy either for current competitor comedian David Alan Grier; Bruno Tonioli told him he “was seeing about four or five characters” during his Viennese waltz premiere night. And then there’s the danger of over-performance—sometimes, the stars’ movement or dancing has been too dramatic. On premiere night this season, the judges warned gymnast Shawn Johnson about what called her “gymnast arms” flailing about.
Melissa has said her “dance training” isn’t helping her as much as people think. Speaking of she and her partner Tony Dovolani, she said, “It’s not like we practice for a day and have six off!” She also pointed out that other stars with more dance background have been on the show before. Tony mentioned Maks’s season 5 partner Mel B., a.k.a “Scary Spice” of the Spice Girls, as a perfect example.
Still, Melissa may have another weapon the other stars aren’t carrying: the sympathy vote. Millions watched as Jason Mesnick proposed to her on the season 13 finale of The Bachelor then took the ring back during the “After the Final Rose” show. The nation’s tears for Melissa were still fresh by the time she joined Dancing with the Stars less than a week later.
So, here’s the question again: Should Melissa be on the show? What do you think?