NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wounded war veteran J.R. Martinez claimed victory on the 13th season of the hit TV show “Dancing With the Stars” on Tuesday, winning with a jive and a samba that thrilled audiences.
Martinez, dancing with partner Karina Smirnoff, wowed the judges throughout the 10-week competition and overcame an injured ankle in the final weeks of the popular dance contest to claim its coveted mirror ball trophy. His grit and determination proved an inspiration to viewers.
Rob Kardashian, brother of the Kardashian sisters of reality TV fame, was runner-up. He outscored Martinez by a razor thin margin of 113 to 112 total judges’ points over the two-night finale, but audience voting counts for half the final result and viewers pushed Martinez into the winner’s circle.
Both finalists performed a final samba to Ricky Martin’s “Shake Your Bon Bon,” Martinez in an open-neck white shirt set off by sparkling orange suspenders and Kardashian sporting a bright blue shirt enlivened by a bold yellow stripe.
Talk show host and actress Ricki Lake came in third, despite executing a tango to the theme from “Psycho” that scored a perfect single dance score of 30 from the judges.
Martinez, 28, an “All My Children” TV actor, Army veteran and motivational speaker, was ebullient upon his victory, thrusting his arm in the air, thanking voters and telling Smirnoff, “You are amazing and I‘m so grateful that I was able to be a part of your first mirror ball trophy.”
Kardashian, who was repeatedly cited for improvement and growth over the course of the season, said performing before millions of viewers weekly was “so out of my comfort zone.”
“I definitely am not sad,” he said. “I won in my book.”
His sister, Kim Kardashian, was on the ABC show in 2008, but did not go far in the competition.
Highlights of Tuesday’s finale included performances by Lady Antebellum and appearances by this season’s eliminated contestants including Carson Kressley, Nancy Grace, David Arquette and Chynna Phillips, among others.
The season received much attention for the casting and the participation of Chaz Bono, the transgender son of superstar Cher, who had a sex change operation last year.
After negative reactions from some fans initially, Bono gained support and was not eliminated until the midway point. He even returned each week to cheer on the remaining dancers, saying on Tuesday that “it’s turned into a family.”
Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Bob Tourtellotte