‘Dancing with the Stars’ winner: ‘I just want to take a moment and breathe’What sore ankle?

What challenging lift?

The fears of J.R. Martinez and his partner Karina Smirnoff on Monday seemed so insignificant on Tuesday, after the couple became the latest winners of the Dancing with the Stars mirror ball trophy.

“I just want to take a moment and breathe, take it in,” the actor and former U.S. Army soldier told reporters after the two-hour finale. “The fact that we were able to top it off with this … we created a lot of magical moments together on this show that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives. And my friend won her first mirror ball trophy! Everyone knows she is a beautiful dancer, but I’m able to vouch that she’s also a beautiful person. I’m glad I was able to see that and America was able to see that as well.”

Continued Smirnoff, “the journey is ending and I don’t want it to end because I don’t want to stop seeing him every single day in his Latin heels. That was the best part of the journey.”

“The heels?” Martinez asked.

“You! You!” she replied, laughing.

After Monday’s final performance show, it seemed like Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke would triumph in the end. The couple went into the season finale at the top of the leaderboard with 57 points, while Martinez and Ricki Lake trailed in second place with 54. But even Kardashian, who finished in second place ahead of Lake, seemed satisfied with the outcome.

“I could not have asked for a better ending,” Kardashian told reporters. “We ended with a perfect score [on Monday] and I had an awesome experience with Cheryl, I literally shocked myself week after week and still, even tonight, we improved. I am super happy with the whole outcome of everything. I shocked myself that I was in the final two.”

While reveling in his win, Martinez made sure to give a shout-out to his mother Maria for helping him to make it to the winner’s circle. She was in the ballroom on Tuesday, though she might have been hard for a lot of people to see — her son included.  “I had everyone coming up to me and congratulating me, and I felt someone pulling on my suspenders, and it was my mom who is 4 foot 11. Poor thing she’s way down there! I just kissed her and said can you imagine that eight and half years ago you were one of those people teaching me how to walk. And now for me to come out in front of millions of people and dance? As much as this is an accomplishment for myself and for Karina, it is accomplishment for my mother, as well.

“There are a lot of challenges we go through in life,” said Martinez, who sustained severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body while serving overseas. “Unwillingly, we are put into situations, like what happened to me in Iraq. And like this, I willingly joined the show. But with those challenges, you have to continue to maintain a positive attitude. You’ve got to believe in yourself. I proved to myself that I really can accomplish a lot of things when I’m willing to put my mind to it.”

So what’s next for the victor? Well first, he’d like to cuddle up with his shiny new friend. “I’m going to put it in bed, tuck it in, and it’s going to roll around with me. And after that, once we’ve grown apart, I’m going to glue it on the hood of my car, drive around Los Angeles, and be in my own parade.” (Smirnoff, in the meantime, will give it a special well-lit place in her Woodland Hills, Calif. dance studio).

After that, Martinez would like to do some more acting, write a book, and give motivational speeches. (He’ll also serve as the Grand Marshall of the 2012 Rose Parade on New Years Day). “I want to continue to share not only this experience but every experience I’ve had in my life. And from time to time, I’ll call up Karina and say, `let’s meet up around the corner and do a little dance.”

(Photo courtesy of ABC)

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