Ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi becomes first woman to win Dancing With The Stars

After four consecutive male winners on 'Dancing With the Stars' - the US version of hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing - it was finally ladies' night.

Kristi Yamaguchi was named the new "Dancing" champ on the show's season finale, becoming the first woman to win the TV dance competition since its first season.

The figure skater came into the final contest Tuesday with a perfect score and beat fan favourites Jason Taylor and Cristian de la Fuente to claim the mirrorball trophy.

"This is definitely for all those women out there to continue to be strong," she said after the show, hoisting the prize above her head.

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First lady: Kristi Yamaguchi seen here on the shoulders of loser Jason Taylor, left and pro dancer Cristian de la Fuente after becoming the first woman to win the US version of Strictly, Dancing With The Stars

The Olympic gold medalist was clearly the most talented dancer on this season's competition, regularly landing atop the judges' scoreboard.

But viewer votes count just as much, and with the audience 75 percent female, men have had the edge. Last season ended with a shocker when race-car driver Helio Castroneves upset Spice Girl Melanie Brown.

"Obviously the fans are the deciding factor here," Yamaguchi said, "and I can't say enough to thank them."

She also had plenty of fans among her fellow competitors, who said she deserved the title.

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Kristi Yamaguchi and her professional partner Mark Ballas were crowned champion in the two-part season finale which concluded last night

Taylor, the massive but graceful pro football star, called Yamaguchi "just perfect," adding that he "grew up watching her compete for our country."

De la Fuente, who was eliminated early in the two-hour season finale, said "it was impossible to beat her."

The actor's professional partner, Cheryl Burke, agreed. "Kristi deserved it more than any other woman in any other season," she said.

"It's about time that a woman wins."

Yamaguchi's athletic background helped make her a winner, said judge Carrie Ann Inaba, because athletes know how to channel criticism into competition.

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Defeated: Kristi and Mark beat pro football star Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska in the dance-off

"She was technically great and she was doing incredible choreography," Inaba said, adding that Yamaguchi's performance personality emerged throughout the season.

"She was able to really develop her crowd-pleasing skills and that's what set her over the top."

The judge acknowledged on Monday's show that men often fare better in the ballroom, saying "they have a natural tendency to be more crowd-pleasers."

"When men get on the floor and you're watching the male power, it's unbeatable," Inaba said after last night's show.

"It generates this sort of excitement on the dance floor that's really hard to touch."
Winning the "Dancing" crown does not quite compare to winning an Olympic gold medal, Yamaguchi said, but it's still "a fun, amazing experience."

"It's not just this (trophy) but what it represents," she said. "It's all the hard work and the time spent together and the friendships made, challenging yourself and learning something new."

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Kristi was a popular winner and judged to be the best dancer in the competition

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