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Oh, yes! Ohno takes 'Dancing' title

| Wednesday, May 23, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Two-time Olympic gold medalist Apolo Anton Ohno earned a new title Tuesday: "Dancing With the Stars" champion. The speed skater and his partner, Julianne Hough, beat out former 'N Sync star Joey Fatone to win the ABC dance-off's mirror-ball trophy.

"I feel amazing," the ebullient Ohno said. "You put your mind to something, you give 100 percent, sacrifice and dedication, anything is possible."

Ohno, 25, became a technical master during the season, training in the dance studio as he would on the ice.

"Apolo's competitiveness is almost on the verge of insanity," his coach, John Schaeffer, said on Tuesday's show.

Fatone, 30, was the season's undisputed showman. He used a light saber for a "Star Wars" themed tango and wore breakaway clothes and a sparkly gold suit for his freestyle dance.

"Congratulations to them. Well deserved," he said to Ono and Hough, adding, "I feel like a winner."

Being on the show "has been an amazing journey," Fatone said: "It's probably one of the best things I've ever done in my life."

Laila Ali, who joined Ohno and Fatone during the final round, was eliminated from the trophy race in the middle of Tuesday's two-hour finale. She and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, earned the lowest score from the judges, and fans failed to make up the difference.

When asked which of her fellow competititors was poised to take the trophy, Ali called both "great."

"It doesn't mean anything no matter who wins," said the world champion boxer. "Especially because I didn't."

Being on the show allowed fans to see her in a different light, she said. The 29-year-old daughter of Muhammad Ali was the last remaining female contestant.

None of the show's contestants are expert dancers. Each becomes the student and performing partner of a professional dancer throughout the 10-week season. Three judges rate each couple's ballroom- and Latin-dance skills while viewers weigh in by phone and Internet. The combined tallies determine which couple is eliminated each week.

Fans - taken with Ali's grace, Fatone's showmanship and Ohno's determination - got to know their favorites a little better each week as the show offered glimpses of the couples behind the scenes. They saw Ali bring her partner to a get-to-know-you backyard barbecue at her house. Ohno invited a hip-hop dancer to help him with his moves. Fatone brought his partner, Kym Johnson, to Disneyland. Viewers connected with them as they bonded with each other.

Ohno was the first of the finalists to earn a perfect score during the competition, collecting 30 points for his samba in April. Fatone and Ali have each earned perfect scores since. All three earned perfect scores during Tuesday's season finale.

The finale also featured performances from each of the stars eliminated during the season: Paulina Porizkova, Shandi Finnessey, Leeza Gibbons, Clyde Drexler, Heather Mills, John Ratzenberger, Billy Ray Cyrus and Ian Ziering.

"Dancing With the Stars" is based on a British show called "Strictly Come Dancing." The format has since spread to 29 countries, including Poland, India, Chile and Germany. This is the fourth season of the American version. Past champions were soap-opera star Kelly Monaco, NFL record-holder Emmitt Smith and former 98 Degrees member Drew Lachey.

Lachey said participating on the show was "one of the best things I've done in my whole life."

"People have forgotten all about my football career," Smith said.

Each episode has drawn at least 16.5 million viewers this season.

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