Photo Credit: ABC/ADAM TAYLOR
Dancing with the Stars season 13 finished with a flourish Tuesday night as the frontrunner (Ricki Lake), the fan favorite (J.R. Martinez) and the underdog (Rob Kardashian) battled it out for the coveted mirror-ball trophy!
After the three couples battled it out and the season's eliminated contestants performed during the 2-hour episode, hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvet announced that the mirror-ball belonged to Iraq veteran Martinez and dancing pro Karina Smirnoff.
"First and foremost, I want to thank everybody who voted for us, for 10 weeks," the soap opera actor, 28, said. "Thank you, America, for believing in us."
Martinez immediately gave props to his loyal partner, and said, "You are amazing, and I'm so grateful I could be a part of your first mirror-ball trophy," Martinez added and then kissed a crying Smirnoff on the cheek. This is Smirnoff's first win after 10 seasons on the show, although she had made it to the finals and semifinals twice.
Kardashian and Cheryl Burke, who earlier in the season were in the bottom three more than once, were not too upset at being season 13's runners-up.
"I'm super thankful," he said, after the results were announced. "This is such a crazy experience. I'm definitely not sad. I won in my book."
Third-place winner Lake and the always-charismatic Derek Hough were eliminated halfway through the finale, after the first set of dances highlighted a reprise of a dance the couple performed earlier in the season.
It was a disappointing finish for the pair, who were undoubtedly the season's most consistent dancers, but Lake took her third place spot with humility and nothing but love for her partner, Hough.
"I've loved basically every minute of this," Lake said afterward. "I had the best partner, the best teacher, the best motivator -- and I've done something I really didn't think I could do."
Now that season 13 is over and the pop of confetti marking the new winner has been heard, let the speculating about the cast for season 14 begin! DWTS returns to ABC on March 19, 2012. Cue the music!