"Dancing With the Stars" pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy has carried past winners on his shoulders many times before, but on Tuesday, it was finally his turn to be lifted up after he and his celebrity partner, Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis, were declared the season 18 champs.
“Tony (Dovolani) and Val (Chmerkovskiy) lifted me up,” he told reporters after the show. “There was this abundance of emotion from everybody and I felt it. It was brilliant.”
The duo emerged victorious in a season that was filled with some of the most competitive dancing in the show's history.
“Charlie White didn’t make the finals, James Maslow didn’t, and other people who did incredible numbers didn’t either,” Chmerkovskiy said. “This is about the people who voted and called and stayed up overnight to vote. It’s because of them that we’re holding the trophy.
“Had Amy (Purdy) and Derek (Hough)’s names been called out, everything would have been right with the world,” added Chmerkovskiy, referring to the couple who finished second. “This (victory) is special because of the people who dedicated their time for us. We did our best. I have nothing else to give!”
It took the pro dancer 14 seasons to finally earn his first mirror ball, and now that he's on top, he's not sure he could repeat his success.
“Honestly, emotionally, I have no idea (how I’d win again),” Chmerkovskiy said. “The first person I spoke to after Meryl was Derek, and I said, ‘Dude, I have no idea how you did this five times.’ When the season’s over, I am depleted. I have nothing else.”
Fellow pro finalists Hough and Mark Ballas were thrilled to welcome Chmerkovskiy into the mirror-ball champions club.
“I’m delighted for Maks,” said Ballas, who has won twice. “I’ve been friends with him since we were 8 or 9 years old. He really put in amazing work this season. If you’re judging this competition based on dancing, then the right guy won. Maks deserved it. His work was outstanding.”
“It’s an amazing end to a beautiful season,” Hough concurred. “I couldn’t be more proud or happy to see Maks and Meryl hold up that trophy.”
As for whether fan-favorite Chmerkovskiy will be back in September to try for a second straight win, the dancer told TODAY, "(Judge) Len (Goodman) and I will get together and think about it."