Dancing's Melissa Rycroft on Her Big Win: I Think We Earned It

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Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani | Photo Credits: Adam Taylor/ABC
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Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani | Photo Credits: Adam Taylor/ABC

Maybe Melissa Rycroft should keep setting the bar low. The Bachelor alum, who finished third on Season 8 of Dancing with the Stars, just wanted to make it to Week 4 of All-Stars with Tony Dovolani. But she exceeded all of her — and arguably everyone's — expectations by taking home the Mirrorball trophy and overcoming season-long front-runners Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough in the process. "Honestly, I don't think anyone predicted us to win," Rycroft tells TVGuide.com. "We wanted to win, but we certainly didn't expect to. I'm still in shock." See what else Rycroft has to say about her big win below. Plus: Where will she put the Mirrorball?

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Congratulations! Have you slept at all?
Melissa Rycroft:
No! We hopped on that plane right after the show and I think it was just too much adrenaline for all of us. We tried to sleep, but didn't and then went straight to GMA. We'll sleep later. ... I don't think that it's really hit me yet and every once in a while, I look over in the corner at the trophy and go, "That's mine! That's my trophy!" It's so unexpected and yeah, I'm waiting to wake up and realize that I won.

Were you thrown off by Tom [Bergeron]'s wordplay: "Now they have one too/won two"?
Rycroft:
I heard a lot of people were confused, but when he started speaking, I looked at him and he was looking right at me, and that's all I saw and I actually didn't hear anything else he said. I made eye contact with him and I just heard my name and then I lost it! At that point, I'll be honest, I really thought it was going to be Shawn and Derek. I was not expecting to hear my name and it was just utter astonishment and shock.

Tony lost it way more than you did.
Rycroft:
Oh yeah! He went insane. And Tony knew that. He'd been saying since Day 1 that if he ever got to the point of possibly getting the trophy, you'd have to pick him up off the floor. When it came down to the final two couples, I looked at Tony and was like, "You've never been down here." And he was like, "No." He'd only ever made it to third place. When we had guaranteed made it to second, that was already such an accomplishment. Tony had never been there and it was better than we had done in Season 8. Then after the longest pause ever by Tom, when he said our names, it was just unbelievable.

Shawn was the favorite, but you had so much momentum the past four weeks. How much of a chance did you give yourself?
Rycroft:
I thought we had a chance, but I don't think that Tony and I ever considered ourselves front-runners. Shawn and Derek were always the front-runners. They're so amazing this whole season and we love them, and Shawn and I go back to Season 8, obviously. But Tony and I never said, "We're such a threat in this competition." We weren't continuously at the top. We always felt week-to-week that we were just fighting to stay in the pack. It wasn't until the swing marathon that we broke through and this momentum came. It was almost like we didn't feel like we needed to prove anything to anyone because we didn't have the mentality that it was our trophy to lose. We felt it was our trophy to win. Because of that, we were able to go out week after week and just do the best we could do. We danced like every dance was our last one because we were really scared that it was! Who would've predicted that we would make it to the very last dance possible?

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Do you know that in the past four weeks, you only lost five points in nine dances?
Rycroft:
Really? Are you serious? I didn't even know that. That's crazy! I was shocked every time we got a 30! I am so proud of Tony this season. We had a great relationship in Season 8, but something different happened this season and neither of us really know what it was. He was more patient with me; I was more patient with him. I was more willing to learn; he was more willing to be creative with choreography. It was like everything kind of came together and he pushed me to be so much better than I was in Season 8 and I think I pushed him to do the same. And once we started gaining a little confidence midseason, I think that showed and it kept growing. And those 30s helped with that!

Your goal of making it to Week 4 seems crazy now.
Rycroft:
[Laughs] I just remember on Week 1, I looked at Tony and said, "If I can make it to Week 4 and maybe past it, I'll be happy." Honestly, I looked at the lineup and I didn't think I could compete with some of those names. I didn't think that I could compete with some of the talent. And week after week, I was just surprised and shocked, going, "How is this happening?" A lot of it is the mystery of the audience vote. We don't know where the audience vote lies. Unless you've been in the bottom two, you just don't know how much you get or how little you get. It sure as heck was the audience that got us as far as we did and it was the audience that got us that trophy. We felt so much support this season. We definitely owe the fans for bringing that Mirrorball to us.

Do you think the fact that you were the only ones who've never won played a role?
Rycroft:
I don't think so. Tony and I never wanted to play up the sympathy: "Oh, we're the only ones without a trophy." It was a known fact that neither of us had the trophy, and the rest of the competitors did. We never begged people to vote for us because of that. We wanted to earn it. I didn't want anybody to take it away from us if we did win it by saying, "Oh, they didn't do this." And I think we totally earned it. We went out dance after dance and showed growth and variety. We had fun the entire time. It's weird to say because I don't like saying things like this, but I do feel like we earned it.

Your freestyle was ballsy. Everyone expects a high-energy, eye-popping freestyle and you went the opposite route with a slow one, and those are much harder to make memorable for the audience.
Rycroft:
Exactly. It was a risk, but we learned from our Season 8 freestyle. We went upbeat there and it didn't work out.

I believe you said "bombed."
Rycroft:
[Laughs] It didn't go the way we had planned, so this time, we said, "We need to go a completely different route." We knew that the Fierce Five were coming in [for Shawn and Derek] and we knew that Kelly [Monaco] and Val [Chmerkovskiy] were doing Dirty Dancing, which is huge. We decided the only way to compete with that is to not compete with it. I mean, I don't know how you compete with the Fierce Five! Do you bring Barack Obama in? It was such a high scale that we just simplified it and took a huge risk. Dancing like that, sometimes you worry that people won't connect with it and they will connect more with the dances that they can dance to and clap their hands to. Thankfully we took this risk because this time the risk definitely paid off.

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Did your daughter have any idea what was going on?
Rycroft:
I don't think so. She's still too young. I asked my husband because he's been holding her in the audience. He said that she loves it. Whenever anybody claps, she's clapping. I have so many cute pictures of her because whenever she would get close to the Mirrorball trophy, she just couldn't stop touching it. It was just so shiny. And she was dressed in this little silver dress, so she looked like a little Mirrorball. I kept all my bracelets from this season, so it's going to be something that we're going to share one day.

You should do a routine with her when she's 6, like Drew [Lachey] and his daughter.
Rycroft:
Oh, my God! That was so cute! I would die! I can't wait to dance with her.

What's next for you?
Rycfrot:
After I get some sleep? [Laughs] We're going to go back to Dallas and just be quiet for a little bit and recoup. It's been a long three months and I think we're all a little exhausted. It's family time, it's Dallas time, it's holiday time, and then come the new year, we'll see what new things come in. ... There are things we're talking about doing, but I'm kind of turning the phone and computer off for the next couple of weeks. Just resting.

Where are you going to put the Mirrorball?
Rycroft:
I was thinking my front yard so everybody can see it. [Laughs]

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But what if someone steals it?
Rycroft:
Yeah, I'll need a high-tech security system. I think it obviously has to go on the mantel, right? What better mantelpiece can you have than a bona-fide All-Stars Mirrorball trophy?

It should be on a rotating stand.
Rycroft:
Right. With the spotlight on top of it! That's what I'll do!


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