Ice Network

Rippon soars to victory on 'Dancing with the Stars'

2018 Olympian credits reality show for making him a 'better performer'
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Adam Rippon and partner Jenna Johnson earned perfect marks for their jazz routine en route to capturing the mirror ball trophy on Season 26 of 'Dancing with the Stars.' -ABC/Kelsey McNeal

The finale of this abbreviated, all-athlete season of Dancing with the Stars may have been only an hour long, but it still contained six new dances and plenty of flair. Adam Rippon and partner Jenna Johnson also earned the first perfect score of the season for their jazz routine, and, at the end of the night, the duo was named Season 26 champions.

NFL star Josh Norman and partner Sharna Burgess, and Tonya Harding and partner Sasha Farber were the runners-up.

For their freestyle, Rippon and Johnson went with a quirky, offbeat piece set to "Scooby Doo Pa Pa" by DJ Kass.

"I loved the freestyle that we did. I think it was really cool and funky," Rippon said. "I was sort of like the leader of our dancing gang."

Rippon took part in four Stars on Ice shows last week, which meant rehearsal time with the DWTS troupe was short.

"It was a crazy schedule," he added. "It was Monday morning the first time that we got to do it (together with the troupe). I was grateful we got to have that one extra little rehearsal."

While Rippon's longtime friend and Olympic teammate Mirai Nagasu didn't reach the finale (she was eliminated on the penultimate episode), she was in the ballroom Monday night.

"I had the time of my life," Nagasu said of her time on the show. "I learned a lot about performing. I think I'll be able to take Dancing with the Stars and apply it to my skating. I had to learn how to express myself way more than I do on the ice, and I think it's been super helpful."

While rest was in short supply, Rippon said he still did his best to give it everything he had on both Stars on Ice and DWTS. He drew particular inspiration from kids telling him during the SOI meet-and-greets that his performances inspired them.

"It makes me feel that every kind of uncomfortable situation I put myself in to push myself is completely, 100 percent worth it because I can go out there and set an example," Rippon said. "It doesn't matter if you feel a little bit different or little bit strange, but if you embrace that and own it, it's what makes you really special."

Rippon saw the influence of his DWTS experience on his skating throughout SOI. He described Johnson as one of the best teachers he's ever had.

"I feel I became a better performer because of Dancing with the Stars," Rippon said. "It's been a really cool experience, and I think it's helped my skating and brought it to a new level.

"I'm so grateful that I was paired with Jenna because it was a match made in heaven," he added. "I would take any opportunity I could get to dust off my cha cha heels and hit the floor."

On Tuesday, Rippon admitted to being exhausted, but he was still enjoying every minute of the post-show media blitz in New York City that took he and Johnson to Good Morning America, Live with Kelly and Ryan and other appearances.

Vacation isn't on Rippon's immediate schedule. For now, he's taking in the opportunities coming his way.

"I love working hard and I love being busy," he said. "I'm going to try and stay as busy as I can."