A season full of fabulous opening numbers and star-studded routines wrapped up with the season twenty-three winner, Laurie Hernandez. The Olympic gold medalist was a fan favorite from the start, and many are not surprised she walked away with the coveted mirror ball trophy. However, it cannot go unsaid how much finalists James Hinchcliffe and Calvin Johnson stole America’s hearts as well. This was the first time in the show’s history that the final three came down to all athletes. The growth of all three stars was evident on the ballroom dance floor during the unforgettable two-night finale event.
Monday night started with the four remaining teams performing the redemption dances. The judges were not holding anything back in their scores; after all it is the finals. Surprisingly, none of the remaining finalists scored perfectly in their redemption dances. Judge Len Goodman called Johnson the most improved dancer in the finals, and Judge Julianne Hough said Hinchcliffe was the perfect package. Ironically, the judges made great comments, but only a few tens were given!
Next up was everyone’s favorite: the long-awaited freestyle routines! The freestyle fun was absolutely incredible! Fans witnessed four very original and jaw-dropping routines that can go down as the best of the best. All of them were so unique in their own way, showcasing each star and their journey on the show perfectly. Jana Kramer’s freestyle took a big risk by adding a unique twist to their performance. Even though the couple scored the lowest on the freestyles, Judge Carrie Ann Inaba feels that she should walk away from this competition feeling amazingly proud of what she has accomplished. Johnson’s freestyle was loaded with tricks and lifts to make you want to get up and dance with him! The judges went nuts over his performance, and Inaba summed it up perfectly by saying that the world simply needs more people like Johnson. There was never a question that he could entertain a crowd, and his freestyle proved that. Next up was Hernandez and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy. The two encompassed Hernandez’s unforgettable personality perfectly. Her bright yellow dress and adorable presence made it impossible for viewers not to smile. Judge Bruno Tonioli even commented by saying that she could send a rocket to the moon with all the energy she exhibited. Last but not least was Hinchcliffe and his partner Sharna Burgess. In their freestyle, the couple took fans through the story of Hinchcliffe’s near-fatal car crash. The race car driver became an instant favorite at the beginning of the competition, and this routine was the cherry on top. Inaba even called him the miracle-man of season twenty-three. The breathtaking performance showcased his ability to outdo himself week after week.
The freestyle routines are often known to be the “make it or break it moments”. The night finished off by sending home fourth-place finalist Kramer. There were so many highlights of Monday night and it was only part one of the finale event!
Tuesday night’s finale brought back former contestants of the season and was live from The Grove in Los Angeles. Audiences watched as Hernandez, Hinchcliffe, and Johnson competed one last time before one walked away with the coveted mirror ball trophy. As the show took a walk down memory lane, the three remaining stars performed their twenty-four hour fusion dances. All contestants tackled the dance floor and received perfect scores. Along with the scored dances of the night, the three also performed their favorite dance from the season. Fans also shared many laughs as we saw the cast’s funniest dress rehearsal moments from the season. As the night crept closer to the crowning of the new champion, tensions were high. We were also treated with a performance by fourth-place finalist Kramer, singing her hit song, “Circles.” As she sang, the three remaining contestants lined up on The Grove stage as a beautiful video piece of their journey’s took the screen. Moments after, Johnson and his partner Lindsay Arnold were announced the couple in third place. Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for, Hinchcliffe and Hernandez were the two remaining athletes contending for the victorious title. Hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews then revealed that Hernandez was the mirror ball trophy winner!
All season long Hernandez was showcased as the American girl who reminded us to keep a positive outlook on life. As the confetti covered the stage, Hernandez closed with some final words, “I just want to thank everyone for their support and riding along this crazy roller coaster of my life. My goal is just to inspire others as I go on with my journey and thanks for being there for me.” The sixteen-year-old athlete became the fifth Olympian to win the show. However, this is not the last time we will see Hernandez dance! Earlier in the evening, it was announced that Hernandez will be joining the Dancing with the Stars live tour.
Season twenty-three was definitely one to remember! Is it too early to be looking forward to season twenty-four?