Melissa Rycroft wasn’t much different from a lot of folks in the viewing audience. When Dancing with the Stars was preparing to announce this season’s all-star winner on Tuesday, the former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader (and ex-bachelorette) assumed it would go to gymnast Shawn Johnson and three-time winner Derek Hough.
So she was admittedly gobsmacked when her name — and that of her very deserving partner, Tony Dovolani — was called, instead. “When it was our name called, I just went, oh, my gosh, how did this just happen,” she told reporters after the show. “The support behind us the entire season it feels good. I felt the cast was genuinely happy for us. It feels good to have fought hard all season and proven ourselves!
“I can’t even sum up what’s happened to my life in the past four years. It’s unbelievable,” she continued. “Everything has been unexpected and I just kind of learned to go with the flow, take everything with a grain of salt and move forward and I’ve been lucky. I’ve been blessed with a lot of really good things in my life and take advantage of it and always do it with a smile. Things are good right now. I have no complaints and I feel really blessed.”
Rycroft wasn’t the only one who was all smiles after show. This marks Dovolani’s first win. “You know what, I’ve paid my dues but it was worth the entire 14 seasons to get somebody like Melissa,” he said. “It was worth this unbelievable moment, this incredible ride—all the stars have to align sometimes and tonight, they all did. It’s my wife’s and my anniversary tonight, and the 100 year of independence for Albanians, so this is an incredible moment. Melissa didn’t just affect me. She affected an entire nation. This moment I share with all our fans.”
Rycroft already has plans for her shiny new trophy. “It’s very heavy, but I don’t even care! [She will put it] in my front yard, on my mailbox, on the top of my car! Somewhere where everybody can see it all the time.
“We never thought we’d be champions, the last ones standing,” she continued. “I wish we hadn’t underestimated ourselves but at the same time, it kind of makes you more proud of what you’ve accomplished and once this dies down, I’m going to look back and reflect on what we’ve just done because I think it’s pretty incredible. I’m proud. Next is holiday time back in Dallas with the family. I’m doing mommy duty for a while.” — With reporting from Carole Glines