‘Dancing with the Stars: Athletes’ finale recap: Who won the Mirror Ball Trophy? [UPDATING LIVE]

If it feels like “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” just started, that’s because it kind of did. Season 26 of “DWTS” came to an end on Monday night after a lightning-fast four weeks of competition that reduced 10 contestants to three finalists: football player Josh Norman and figure skaters Adam Rippon and Tonya Harding. The Mirror Ball Trophy champion was crowned at the end of the night. So who took home the title? Scroll down for our minute-by-minute live blog for all of the night’s developments.

We expected all along that Rippon would make the finals. He was the Mirror Ball front-runner from the moment the cast was announced in April. That was due in part to his success at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where he won the bronze medal in the figure skating team event. But his lively interviews off the ice won him as many fans as his accomplishments in the rink did.

But we thought his Olympic teammate and best friend Mirai Nagasu would join him in the finals. After three weeks they were the two highest-scoring contestants, but Nagasu was unexpectedly eliminated in the semifinals. Did that clear a path to victory for Rippon, or did it mean we were grossly underestimating Norman and Harding? “DWTS” loves football players like Norman; four NFL stars had won Mirror Ball Trophies. That’s more athletes than had won from any other sport. And the two figure skaters who previously prevailed were women — Kristi Yamaguchi (season 6) and Meryl Davis (season 18) — so maybe it was Harding we should have been watching out for all along.

Find out what happened below. All times listed are Eastern.

Daniel Montgomery, 7:57pm — Everybody ready for the finale?

Jeffrey Kare, 7:57pm — I am!

Cordell Martin, 7:58pm — Yes sir!

DM, 8:00pm — Any chance Adam Rippon doesn’t take this?

JK, 8:01pm — I doubt it.

CM, 8:01pm — Same.

Tonya Harding & Sasha Farber
Viennese Waltz

DM, 8:02pm — “America if falling in love with her story, falling in love with her journey,” says Sasha Farber about Tonya’s experience thus far before the open the show with their Viennese waltz.

JK, 8:04pm — Great work from Tonya tonight.

JUDGES — Len Goodman says, “You danced with an elegance and sophistication, plus you had great control … Great start to the finale.” Bruno Tonioli adds, “It’s like I’m watching a born-again Tonya. You dance as if a weight has been lifted.” And Carrie Ann Inaba concluded, “Every movement has meaning to it … That resonates with all of us … but you were a little nervous tonight.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (8), Len (9), Bruno (9) = 26 out of 30

DM, 8:07pm — That was a solid performance, not a showstopper, but a good start. I thought it would get 8s, a little surprised by the 9s.

Josh Norman & Sharna Burgess

DM, 8:08pm — Josh reminisces about his past three weeks on the show in his clip package, noting that he’s been shirtless every week. I hadn’t noticed that until he mentioned it. Sharna definitely knows how to get her partner to the finals.

DM, 8:09pm — Another solid routine to continue the night. These don’t feel like finals-level dances so far, though. I’m waiting for Adam Rippon to bring the house down.

JUDGES — Bruno says, “The beast has been tamed by the beauty … Like a real prince, dashing, debonair and self-assured.” Carrie Ann adds, “There is poetry now that wasn’t there when you first started.” Len concludes, “You’ve had an ease and elegance about your dancing, and this was no exception.” But the three judges all note a slight misstep.

DM, 8:12pm — They’re really racing through these routines. With just an hour-long finale instead of the usual two-night, four-hour finales, it already feels really cramped.

JK, 8:13pm — Good thing we’ll be getting back to a normal schedule next season.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (9) = 27 out of 30

DM, 8:16pm — “It’s going to be epic,” says Josh, previewing his upcoming freestyle. Sharna says it will be “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Adam Rippon & Jenna Johnson

DM, 8:17pm — “She has taught me what being a kind and dedicated teacher can be,” says Adam about his partnership with Jenna and their “true friendship.”

JUDGES — Carrie Ann says, “You need to take that to broadway. You two are the wonder twins of dance … Together you save the world, end of story. Amazing!” Len thought it was “fantastic.” And Bruno thought it was “exquisitely theatrical … Your timing and partner work was flawless.”

JK, 8:20pm — Adam and Jenna’s routine was very skillful!

CM, 8:20pm — This doesn’t feel like a finale to me.

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30

JK, 8:21pm — And a well-deserved perfect score!

DM, 8:22pm — I actually agree with Cordell that this doesn’t feel like a finale. That Adam Rippon dance was excellent, but it felt to me like a dance that would have normally gotten 9s in week four, but they rounded him up to 10s because this is the last night, and if you’re not going to give 10s now, then when?

Tonya Harding & Sasha Farber

DM, 8:25pm — “I want it to feel like a celebration for Tonya,” says Sasha about choreographing his routine for Tonya. “The change in people’s hearts is what’s keeping me going,” says Tonya.

JK, 8:28pm — I don’t know about any of you, but I thought that was just excellent!

DM, 8:28pm — That was really well choreographed, nice disco flourishes without being too campy about it, excellent job on this one by Tonya and Sasha.

CM, 8:28pm — I loved it. I will say Tonya definitely surprised me this season.  A perfect score in my opinion.

JUDGES — Len says, “It was full of fun, full of energy … It was terrific.” Bruno adds, “You’ve become the ultimate disco diva.” And Carrie Ann concludes by giving Tonya hug and saying, “That was so awesome! I love you!”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30, for a grand total of 56 for the night.

JK, 8:31pm — Another well-deserved perfect score!

Josh Norman & Sharna Burgess

DM, 8:35pm — Josh is coming into the finals feeling like an “underdog,” and he’s energized by that fight. I think he may be overstating his situation actually. I don’t think he’s really that far behind Adam Rippon the way this season has gone thus far.

DM, 8:37pm — Well, Sharna got his shirt off again. She definitely is pulling out all the stops to get him some viewer votes.

JK, 8:38pm — It looks like everyone has upped their game for round two, Josh & Sharna were just incredible!

JUDGES — Bruno says, “That really was such a strong performance, heroic, powerful, solid as a rock.” Carrie Ann adds that it was the best choreography Sharna has ever done, and “I saw a champion.” Len concludes, “There’s no way you’re the underdog in this final … This was just great. I loved the drama of it, the power, the lifts were brilliant.”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (10), Len (10), Bruno (10) = 30 out of 30, for a total of 57 for the night, just a notch ahead of Tonya.

JK, 8:41pm — Wow! The judges are really going all out on perfect scores tonight.

DM, 8:42pm — Yeah, Adam would have to break both legs during his freestyle not to get 10s.

DM, 8:43pm — I wish they had only done a freestyle dance tonight so the show wouldn’t feel so rushed. You could have taken your time and invested in the routines more. I’m feeling a little underwhelmed, but it’s not the quality of the dances so much as it is the way they’re churning through everything at lightning speed.

CM, 8:44pm — I agree.

Adam Rippon & Jenna Johnson

DM, 8:46pm — “I’m devastated that I have six days left with you,” Jenna told Adam as they started training for their final show. “This freestyle is different. It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it embodies me as a person.”

JK, 8:49pm — That was a terrific freestyle.

JUDGES — Carrie Ann says, “Your style was incredible. It was brave, it was certainly a choice, but I feel like I was missing something.” Len adds, “What it lacked in convention it made up for in invention.” Bruno concludes, “It was a high-style freestyle … Even Anna Wintour would say, absolutely fabulous!”

SCORES — Carrie Ann (9), Len (9), Bruno (10) = 28 out of 30, for a total of 58 out of 60. That’s one point higher than Josh, who was one point higher than Tonya. They’ve really left it close for the viewers to decide — viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones that is.

JK, 8:53pm — I guess they’re now done with perfect scores for the season.

DM, 8:54pm — The judges picked a strange time to suddenly get picky. I thought that was better and more innovative than Adam’s first dance, and they gave that one 10s without thinking twice about it.

DM, 8:56pm — Also, I really wish I could have seen a Mirai Nagasu freestyle.


DM, 8:57pm — Before the final results are revealed — voting is already closed — they’re doing a really brief dance farewell with all the eliminated celebs. Really rushed, like everything else tonight.

And the winners are … Adam and Jenna!

JK, 8:59pm — Go Adam!

DM, 9:00pm — Well deserved victory! However, that whole episode felt so rushed. Usually the problem with “DWTS” is too much filler, but they didn’t even have time to reveal a second and third place finisher.

CM, 9:01pm — Glad this season is over.

DM, 9:02pm — Adam deservedly won, and yet it feels like he was robbed of the achievement and celebration he would have gotten from a full season.

JK, 9:04pm — Maybe it would’ve been nice if “DWTS” and “American Idol” were both on an hour and a half tonight.

DM, 9:05pm — Or they could have done the hour tonight and done the usual final results show later this week or next week.

Judges’ Leaderboard:

1. Adam Rippon — 30 + 28 = 58
2. Josh Norman — 27 + 30 = 57
3. Tonya Harding — 26 + 30 = 56

Final Predictions Contest Results:

Who will win ‘Dancing with the Stars: Athletes’? Adam Rippon

Who will finish 2nd and 3rd? Tonya Harding AND Josh Norman (No specific second or third place finisher was announced)

Who will receive the judges’ HIGHEST score? Adam Rippon

Who will receive the judges’ LOWEST score? Tonya Harding

How many 10s will the judges give out? 10 or More (10 to be exact)

Which judge will give the MOST points? Bruno Tonioli (58)

Which judge will give the FEWEST points? Carrie Ann Inaba (56)

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