Shawn Vaults Past Gilles on Dancing With the Stars

Olympic gymnast named the winner of the eighth season of Dancing With the Stars

By Natalie Finn May 20, 2009 6:01 AMTags

Dancing With the Stars loves its Olympians—maybe because of all those tenths and hundredths of points up for grabs.

Shawn Johnson, a four-time medalist at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, has been named the winner of the eighth season of Dancing With the Stars after edging out the runner-up, French stud Gilles Marini, by the narrowest margin in show history.

"I've loved every second of it," the 17-year-old champion said backstage before she hoisted the almost-as-big-as-her disco ball trophy.

"This has been the best experience ever," she added afterward. "I've grown so much."

(Alas, there was no celebratory back flip.)

This makes title No. 2 for her partner, Mark Ballas, who won two seasons ago with Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. (We know someone who's proud of his country.)

Coming in second was Gilles, who once was solely known as Samantha's eyeful of a neighbor in Sex and the City, and who now will be known for being the very hot guy who perhaps should have won DWTS.

Week after week, the Frenchman—partnered with still two-time champ Cheryl Burke—had shown the most intensity and natural ability on that floor. And what he may have lacked in technique at times, he made up for with musicality and, yes, sex appeal.

But Shawn—who surpassed everyone when it came to technique—won the crowds over in the end with her infectious enthusiasm and athleticism. (But she didn't win 'em over by much. Tom Bergeron said less than 1 percent separated the top two scores.)

ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Meanwhile, the Bachelor's loss was ABC's gain, as Melissa Rycroft made it all the way to third place despite not joining the show until the week it premiered and suffering a rib injury several weeks ago.

"Never in a million years could I imagine I would be here dancing with an Olympian and someone who was in a blockbuster movie," the 25-year-old beauty said. "My life—the past 11 weeks—has completely changed. I thank all the viewers and voters for keeping us here this long."

(We said it in week one and we'll say it again: Suck it, Jason Mesnick.)

And oh, the Dancing With the Stars finale, with its clipfests and celebrity roasts and trips down memory lane… Nearly two hours of nothin' to get to somethin'.

We adore the show, we adore dancing, but… we don't care what Marissa Jaret Winokur, Leeza Gibbons and Tia Carrere think of this season's finalists. Or what Shawn, Gilles and Melissa think about each other. Etc.

The whole thing could have been reduced to one hour and producers still could have crammed in two performances by Lady Gaga, one more dance apiece from the three finalists and the announcement of which pick-a-pro contestant will be joining the show next season.

Congratulations, Anna Demidova.

Eventually, Shawn rocked what may have been her most confident cha-cha yet, and received a 30 for her efforts. Melissa impressed with another perfect samba. And Gilles once again scored the maximum for his titillating Argentine tango.

But, after the "disco stick" song had been sung, only one of them got her hands on the disco ball.

So that's it for season eight. See ya in the fall!

(Originally published May 19, 2009, at 8:10 p.m. PT)