What's heavier, an Olympic gold medal or Dancing with the Stars' disco ball trophy? Only Apolo Anton Ohno knows for sure.
The champion speed skater was declared the winner of the fourth season of the hit ABC series Tuesday night, becoming the youngest contestant to ever hoist the disco ball, as well as the third man in a row to prove that ballroom dancing is no girly waltz in the park.
"I feel amazing," said Ohno, who also happened to be celebrating his 25th birthday today. "Like I said from day one, everybody here is a champion…The lessons to be learned from this competition are amazing—if you put your mind to something and give it 100 percent, you give sacrifice and dedication, anything is possible."
While Ohno spent most of the season jockeying for first place with Joey Fatone and Laila Ali (all of whom made up the strongest final three in the show's history), the ice-happy athlete also separated himself from the pack time and time again, earning the first perfect score of the year back in week four.
Winning praise for his super-speedy footwork, attention to detail and youthful vibrancy, Ohno—with the help of the show's most cutting-edge choreography to date, courtesy of his 18-year-old partner Julianne Hough—proved that he was in it to win it and was duly rewarded by millions of voters who never stuck Ohno in shaky red-spotlight territory.
"Being an Olympic medalist, I love this part of the competition," Ohno said in a taped interview before performing Monday. "In short-track speed skating, it's the final lap that counts, and in this dancing competition, I want to be the first one to cross the finish line."
As late as last night, however, the competition was far from in the bag.
Ohno's rumba left something to be desired for Carrie Ann Inaba, who said that he "over-performed it just a hair," and Len Goodman, who said that it "lacked any romance...That was too fast, too hectic."
Goodman's opinion was too much for Bruno Tonioli to bear, though, because he immediately was in the Brit's face, protesting that Ohno and Hough "made love on the dance floor!" and "could have conceived a baby" out there.
Needless to say, Tonioli gave them a 10, praising their chemistry and calling them "a joy to watch." Although, if you go by his estimate, theirs was a performance that should have been rated TV-MA.
The freestyle round brought everyone back together again, however, with Tonioli and Goodman agreeing that Ohno's energetic hip-hop routine was everything that a freestyle dance should be, and Inaba simply giving him and Hough a congratulatory hug.
The fiercely competitive Laila Ali, who was voted off during the first half of tonight's two-hour finale (one last dance for each finalist, interviews with past winners, lots of montages, etc.), admitted that she was bummed not to have finished first but that anyone who did win would deserve it.
"Of course, I'm pissed," the boxing champ and daughter of sports icon Muhammad Ali said good-naturedly. "I mean, come on!"
Last night, Ali scored a 29 on her Paso Doble, with Tonioli calling it a "tidal wave of passion and drama," but then her retro "Beat It"-inspired freestyle number left the judges wishing for more of the elegant and sensual Laila they had grown to love.
After Ali's elimination, it was down to Ohno and Mr. Entertainment, the fun-loving Joey Fatone.
The former 'N Sync member's personality (not to mention his flair for live performing and some surprising flexibility) was on display throughout the competition, from his Star Wars tango to his gold lamé-suited freestyle.
"We're going to add a little Joey-and-Kym flair to it," Fatone promised before dancing the cha-cha-cha on Monday, a performance that all three judges actually criticized for having too many tricks and not enough cha-cha.
"A lot of hip-hop and body popping," Goodman said.
Fatone's disco-infused freestyle, meanwhile, had the judges soaring as high as his partner Kym Johnson, whose feet rarely touched the floor during their lift-happy "hit parade of dance."
"You flew off that stage like Harry Potter on a Nimbus 2000…I wish we had more than a 10 to give you," Goodman praised.
Unfortunately, a handful of 10's were all that Fatone was going to get for his efforts.
"Congratulations to them, it's well-deserved," the singer said, referring to Ohno and Hough. "I can't be more happy…I feel like a winner!"
He danced like one, too, and will be taking that razzle-dazzle on the road this summer for the second installment of Dancing with the Stars—The Tour, which kicks off June 20 in Austin.