Ward reaches 'Dancing With the Stars' perfection

Kevin Gorman
| Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hines Ward and Kym Johnson recovered from an injury scare to deliver dancing that brought them to tears, the "Dancing With the Stars" studio audience to its feet and the show's judges to award perfect 10s.

Not once, but twice.

The Steelers' star wide receiver and his partner executed the Argentine tango and the salsa and received top scores in an emotionally gripping moment Monday night in the semifinal round of ABC's ballroom dance reality show.

Ward and Johnson scored a unanimous victory over Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff in a winner-takes-all cha-cha dance-off. Judges, however, gave a decided edge in the first-ever instant challenge, to Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," to Disney star Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas, who earned 15 bonus points for a 73-60 edge in total points over Ward and Johnson. The Mirror Ball Trophy winners will be determined next Monday in the season finale.

The performance of Ward and Johnson was most impressive, considering she was rushed to the hospital Friday after injuring her neck when Ward landed on her during rehearsals.

"Praise to God, she's still walking," Ward said.

"I didn't really want to dance," Johnson admitted.

"She's a warrior," Ward added.

Johnson said reaching the semifinals with Ward caused her to switch strategy, "doing leaps I've never done before or seen done on 'Dancing with the Stars.' It's pretty scary, but I think it will be worth it." But after landing awkwardly on her neck, video showed her whispering to Ward, "I can't feel my arms."

"I was supposed to swing her through my legs and lift her up, but all my weight just came down on the back of her neck," Ward said. "For me, I'm sick because that was one of my biggest things: I didn't want to drop her."

They recovered to pull off a perfect Argentine tango that prompted host Tom Bergeron to say, "That's a long way from Friday, my friends." Ward and Johnson wiped tears from their eyes in what Bergeron called "clearly an emotional dance for our dancers and some of our judges, as well."

Judge Len Goodman compared their legwork to something from the Kama Sutra, while Bruno Tonioli said, "You never want it to end." Carrie Ann Inaba was impressed with Ward's partnering, calling their connection one that went beyond what was asked for in a dance routine.

"I'm just happy you're OK," Inaba said, "because that was a serious injury."

The show featured interviews with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, team president Art Rooney II and All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, along with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and retired running back Jerome Bettis, giving testimonials about the Super Bowl XL Most Valuable Player.

"I'm very impressed that Hines has made it to the semifinals," Rooney said. "He's very determined to win this thing, so I wouldn't count him out."

Just like he has done his whole career, Ward had to overcome doubters on the dance show -- including his mother, who gave him little chance to win.

"I'm shocked, really," Kim Young-hee said. "I tell him, 'You don't know nothing about the dancing. Maybe you go one week. You're going to fail.'"

Such skepticism only serves as motivation for Ward, said Cowher.

"Hines Ward's determination is based on, 'Tell me I can't do something and I'll show you that not only will I do it, I'll be the best there was at it.'"

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