By Adam S. Levy,
Radar Staff Writer
Soldier-turned-soap star J.R. Martinez was named the winner of the 13th season of Dancing with the Stars Tuesday, claiming the ABC hit’s coveted mirrorball trophy.
“First and foremost, I want to thank everybody who voted for us for 10 weeks,” he said, following the win. “Thank you America for believing in us.”
The All My Children star lauded his gorgeous pro partner Karina Smirnoff — celebrating a milestone of her own — as an “amazing” dancer.
“I’m so grateful that I was able to be part of your first mirrorball trophy,” he told Smirnoff. “She deserves it … the fact that I was able to be part of that journey, I’m excited about that.”
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The 28-year-old Georgia native, who suffered burns to more than 40 percent of his body after driving over an Iraq landmine when he was 19, gained the support of the show’s 18 million weekly viewers with his harrowing backstory and smooth moves on the dance-floor.
Underdog Rob Kardashian finished a surprising second, and Ricki Lake, who dominated much of the leaderboard throughout the year, came in third. Neither were bitter over their close-but-no-cigar finishes.
Said Lake: “I’ve loved basically every minute of this. I’ve done something that I really didn’t think I could do and for someone who is a middle-aged mom, I hope I made my children proud, my fiance and my family.
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J.R. Martinez gets a hero’s welcome as he arrives for the taping of GMA in NYC.
“J.R. and Karina really deserved to win,” she continued. “And Rob and Cheryl, I’m so impressed with them both, so it’s great to be among the three best.”
Kardashian said he was “definitely am not sad” at the end result.
“I won in my book,” the reality star said, adding Martinez “deserves that trophy more than anyone.”
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In his post-win appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, Martinez said he was grateful for the “opportunity to come on this show and show America who I am.”
Kimmel, congratulating Smirnoff on her first win, joked that with past dance partners such as The Situation, Steve Wozniak and Billy Ray Cyrus, it was like she had been to war as well.
Martinez already has plans for 2012 on tap, acting as the grand marshal in the 123rd annual Tournament of Roses parade, as well as a future project to market to his newfound fans.
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“I want to focus on writing a book,” he said. “I want to tell people more in-depth the story of who J.R. Martinez is and what I’ve been through.
“And at the same time, I want to continue acting, continue doing motivational speaking and, from time to time, call Karina and say, `Let’s go dance.'”
Season 14 of DWTS kicks off in March.
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