After 11 weeks of competition, “Dancing with the Stars” finally crowned a champion for season 23, and was there ever any doubt? Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, who made history at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this year with America’s dominant women’s gymnastics team, now makes history by becoming the youngest winner in “DWTS” history at age 16, sliding in just under fellow gymnast Shawn Johnson (season eight) and wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin (season 21), who were both 17 when they won.
But let’s not forget Hernandez’s pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy. This is his second Mirror Ball victory in the last four seasons; he previously won with Rumer Willis in season 20. Chmerkovskiy has become one of the show’s most consistent pros, having made the finals in four out of the last five seasons, and six times overall.
Hernandez’s victory came after one final competitive dance during the season finale: the “24-Hour Fusion Challenge,” in which she and Chmerkovskiy blended a foxtrot with an Argentine tango. Judge Julianne Hough said, “That was unbelievable. You came out with a bang, and you finished with a bang.” Head judge Len Goodman added that it was “a fabulous dance to close a fabulous season.”
Hernandez received perfect 10s for her fusion dance. So did her competitors James Hinchcliffe and Calvin Johnson, but when combined with Monday night’s scores Hernandez stood alone at the top of the judges’ leaderboard, and when viewer votes were factored in she stood alone as the Mirror Ball champion.
Hinchcliffe finished second, so he couldn’t quite match the success of fellow race car driver Helio Castroneves, who won the Mirror Ball back in season five. This was also another near-miss for Hinchcliffe’s pro partner Sharna Burgess, who has gone to the finals in three of the last four seasons but still hasn’t won the competition. She finished third with Noah Galloway in season 20 and second with Nick Carter in season 21.
That left retired NFL player Johnson in third place. He would have been the fourth football star to win the Mirror Ball, but in the end he couldn’t quite keep up with the racer or the gymnast. However, this tied the best result for his 22-year-old partner Lindsay Arnold. She has only competed four times on “DWTS,” but she has been one of the best for the last three seasons, finishing third with Alek Skarlatos in season 21 and fourth with Wanya Morris in season 22.
What did you think of the result? Did Hernandez deserve to win? According to our recent poll our readers were actually rooting for Hinchcliffe. Let us know what you think below in the comments, and join the discussion in our forums.