Kristi Yamaguchi takes lead going into 'Dancing with the Stars' finale
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/20/2008
Olympic gold medalist figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and her professional partner Mark Ballas cemented their standing as the couple to beat during last night's finalDancing with the Stars sixth-season performance episode on ABC.
Kristi and Mark -- who have been atop the judges leaderboard throughout most of the competition and never found themselves in the bottom two -- received a perfect combined score of 60 out of 60 possible points for their two Monday night routines. Injured telenovela actor Cristian de la Fuente and his partner Cheryl Burke received a combined score of 52, and NFL star Jason Taylor and his partner Edyta Sliwinska received a 51.
Dancing with the Stars live sixth-season performance episode began with the three remaining couples competing against one another in a cha-cha-cha face-off.
Judge Len Goodman thought the face-off highlighted Cristian's "great hips and great rhythm" and showed Jason's "elegance and style" -- however he called Kristi the "complete package."
The freestyle round then commenced with Kristi and Mark going first and receiving resounding applause after their routine was over. The judges agreed with the studio audience -- awarding the couple their second perfect score of the night.
"My God! It was such an inspiring fusion of mambo and hip-hop," commented Bruno. "So demanding! You did not miss a beat. This was so demanding, so difficult. You made it look easy and you keep shining as bright as ever. Worthy of the championship for me."
Carrie Ann explained male celebrity participants have a tendency to be better "crowd pleasers," but that wasn't the case with Kristi.
"You were the big crowd pleaser. They were going crazy for you," said Carrie Ann. "You have everything -- every type of move. Love it."
"For me, this held my attention from start to finish," added Len. "It was slick, it was quick and it had energy in abundance. I absolutely loved it."
Jason and Edyta then performed their freestyle routine. Although the studio audience did appreciate it when Jason removed his shirt, the routine wasn't as well-receive by the judges, who scored it a 27.
"Edyta, it is so nice to see you here in the finals. You've been with the show six seasons, it's really wonderful to see," said Carrie Ann. "Who knew? Jason Taylor can get funky. I was really impressed. I loved the lifts -- the most ambitious lifts I've ever seen. I thought it was fantastic."
"I like the humor that you brought into it. The lifts were fantastic," said Len. "Fantastic job."
Cristian and Cheryl were the final couple to perform in the freestyle round -- and it was a daunting task considering Cristian was dancing with a torn tendon in his right bicep, and it was reflected in their judges score of 26.
"Well I love the Latin American flavor you brought to the whole dance. I thought that was fantastic," commented Len. "I have to take into consideration what I've seen from the other two, and some of those lifts were so fantastically spectacular, I realize with one arm you're challenged to do that. But I have to take that into consideration, and as far as I was concerned, some of the lifts weren't quite up to the standard of the other two."
"I think for one arm you did bloody well," said Bruno. "I like the fact that you captured your Latin spirit -- your Latin fire. A true Latin stallion!"
"At the freestyle, we're looking for who's going to win this -- this is where you put it on the floor and we judge that to see who's going to win it," said Carrie Ann. "I don't know if [Cristian or Jason] compared to Kristi tonight, but I will say when I look at you Cristian I see a winner in so many other ways. You never gave up. You kept going despite the injury. I really, really respect that."
Each of the three remaining couples will perform their favorite sixth-season routine -- with their scores contributing to their final combined judges score total but not being voted on by home viewers who had already voted based on last night's performances.
Dancing with the Stars' sixth-season mirror ball trophy winner will then be revealed based on the combination of the judges' score shares for the dancers' Monday and Tuesday night performances, and the share of home viewer votes cast immediately after Monday night's broadcast.