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'Dancing with the Stars' crowns Rashad Jennings and partner Emma Slater Season 24 champions


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/24/2017 

Dancing with the Stars crowned Rashad Jennings and his professional dance partner Emma Slater its Season 24 champions on Tuesday night.

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The NFL free agent and Emma were declared Dancing with the Stars' ballroom champions and won the coveted mirrorball trophy during Tuesday night's live two-and-a-half hour finale broadcast on ABC.

Rashad and Emma were revealed to be Dancing with the Stars winners based on the combination of judges' scores they had received during this week's final performance and results shows as well as the home viewer votes cast following Monday night's episode.

This marks Emma's first DWTS win as a pro partner in her seven seasons on the show, and she could barely hold back her tears of joy. Emma and Rashad shared a huge, warm hug onstage as confetti fell from above and their castmates cheered them on.

"I pushed myself so hard because working hard is the only thing I know, throwing effort at everything," noted Rashad, who rehearsed about 100 hours more than either of his two finale opponents this season.

"Never an excuse, never blaming anybody, looking in the mirror and finding ways to get better. So I just wanted to come out here, get to know myself better, and fight for this championship."

And fight he did. Rashad was called "a born dancer" this season due to his amazing musicality and natural rhythm, but it was clear he worked extremely hard to get to the end. Rashad, never having won a championship before, even in football, wanted to experience a huge victory. 

Two-time World Series champion David Ross -- who was the first professional baseball player to ever compete on Dancing with the Stars -- and partner Lindsay Arnold claimed second place. This marked Lindsay's highest finish yet out of her five editions serving as a pro partner on DWTS. In two prior seasons, she placed third.

"I'm very surprised [to have made it this far]. I've had so much fun," David admitted prior to learning he had finished as the runner-up.

"It has been a long journey. It's been so much fun getting to know [Lindsay], her being a part of my family. I'm so thankful for her and this whole competition and this show. It's helped me grow as a person. All of the support has made me feel so special. It's a special, special journey you get to go on, on this show."

David, although lacking in dance technique, was said to be the heart of this competition with his endearing personality and spirit. Fans also adored his partnership with Lindsay, who became a little sister to him during this process.

Fifth Harmony member Normani Kordei and partner Val Chmerkovskiy finished the competition in third place, which was a huge shock to everyone in the ballroom and viewers at home since she had been a frontrunner all season long, earning multiple perfect scores from the judges for her impressive routines.

Normani, however, maintained a smile on her face and gracefully accepted her third-place finish, saying she felt "incredibly grateful" for her stint on the show.

"I just feel like that little girl's dream came true," Normani said before the night's results were revealed, referencing how she was the biggest Dancing with the Stars fan as a child.

"I finally built the courage amongst so many amazing people. I couldn't have done this by myself. I have the best partner in the world, and I wouldn't be the same without him and the people that make it possible for me to go out there and do what I love so much."

Normani was the most consistent performer on Season 24 and dubbed one of the best female celebrities to ever compete on Dancing with the Stars. Val has also won two DWTS championships over the last five seasons.

Rashad and Emma topped the combined two-night judges' leaderboard in first place this week after they received a total score of 119 out of 120 possible points for their three routines from Dancing with the Stars judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Julianne Hough, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli.

Normani and Val finished in second place with 118 total points, while David and Lindsay took third on the combined leaderboard with 109 total points.

Tuesday night's carnival-themed finale featured the Top 3 couples each reprising their favorite dance of the season and then performing one last quickly-rehearsed dance routine for the "24-Hour Fusion Challenge," which combined two different styles of ballroom dance into one complicated routine. The fusion challenge completed each couple's scores from the judges for the finals.

Normani and Val earned a perfect score of 40 points from the judges for their Argentine tango and foxtrot fusion. Rashad and Emma took the stage with a cha cha and tango routine that received 39 points from the panel. David and Lindsay performed a salsa and foxtrot fusion which added 36 points to their scores from Monday night.

During Monday night's broadcast, the Top 3 finalists and their respective partners danced in the following two rounds of competition: A "Redemption Dance," which was an improved encore performance of a previously-performed dance on the show, and the fan-favorite "Freestyle Dance," which was a supersized routine with no rules or limitations -- only high expectations.

For a more detailed description of each couple's scores and routines from Monday night's performance show, click here.



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