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'Dancing With the Stars' champ Amber Riley: 'I can't believe I endured!'

Nov. 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM ET

Image: Amber Riley, Derek Hough
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Shocked? Amber Riley sure looked it when "DWTS" announced she and pro partner Derek Hough had won.

The ballroom bash is over, but "Dancing With the Stars" newest winner, Amber Riley, is still waltzing on air over her victory.

“I’m so excited!” Riley told TODAY after being named the season 17 champion. “I’m very proud of myself. I can’t believe I endured til the end.”

After taking a beat, an enthusiastic Riley added, “Well, I guess I can believe it! I worked really, really hard so I’m really happy!”

Riley's pro partner Derek Hough, who earned his fifth mirror-ball trophy this time, said his real victory came when she thanked him for his efforts in a pre-taped segment that aired just before the results were announced.

“This (trophy) is awesome, but having that human connection is (even more) amazing,” he said.

With the scores running so close together among the three finalists (Riley, Corbin Bleu and Jack Osbourne) in the end, the "Glee" star felt that it was the voting public that made the difference.

"There were so many people who deserved to win,” she said. "But it was America’s vote and they voted for me, and I really appreciate that. It feels great."

After the show was over, it was clear that Riley had supporters beyond the viewing public — even her fellow finalists were in her corner.

"I’m so happy for Amber," Bleu, who finished in second place, raved. "She’s grown so much and really deserves this."

The reaction was much the same from third-place finisher Osbourne.

"I’m beyond happy,” he told TODAY. "I love that Amber won. She’s lit up the ballroom and has been as entertaining to people at home as she has been (to everyone) here. She slayed it."

The trophy wasn't the only win for Riley. After a season of demanding routines and constant rehearsals, she's gained so much more.

"I’m a lot stronger," she said. "I have muscles and aches in places that I didn’t know even existed! I feel different. My clothes definitely fit differently. My energy is better."

That beats a mirror ball any day.

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