Entertainment & Arts

Strictly Come Dancing: Louis Smith lifts the trophy

Olympic Gymnast Louis Smith has been crowned champion of this year's Strictly Come Dancing.

The 23-year-old, who won a silver medal at this summer's Olympic Games, lifted the glitterball trophy after performing a quick-footed Charleston.

"I can finally say I won something in the year 2012," he said.

Smith beat actress Dani Harmer, TV presenter Denise Van Outen and Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh in the hotly-contested competition.

The final was watched by a peak audience of 14m people, up from 13.3m in 2011.

Smith was this year's youngest competitor, and was partnered with professional dancer Flavia Cacace.

He suffered several injuries during the 14-week contest, and said he would require a knee operation now the dancing has finished.

His back also caused problems throughout his career, which stopped him from performing too many dramatic lifts before the final.

The majority of those came during his showdance, which he performed topless to Take That's Rule The World.

Judge Bruno Tonionli said the routine "blew me away".

"That had grace. It had fluidity. It was sensual, as well," he added.

Head judge Len Goodman agreed, saying: "If this show goes on to another 20 years, I don't think we'll see another show dance like that."

Image caption Louis and Flavia's names will be added to the bottom of the glitterball trophy
Image caption The couple's dancing was called "seamless, cool and calm" by the judges
Image caption The celebrities battled through 15 weeks of training to reach the finals

Smith had struggled in the opening weeks of the show, his lack of showmanship resulting in lower-than-expected scores.

Goodman said there was "no fire" in his performance - but things started to pick up after he enlisted the help of a drama coach to prepare for a Charleston in week nine.

That performance was repeated for the final, with a daring double somersault over his dancing partner.

Cacace, who first appeared in the show in 2004, yelped in fear as Smith tumbled above her head - but the effort proved worth it, giving her the first Strictly win of her career.

Smith said he would celebrate his win by breaking his diet and taking a well-earned rest.

"I can't wait to have a drink of mulled wine, eat sausage rolls. I might order a Chinese on Christmas Eve," he said.

"I've pretty much been non-stop since April. To go from the Olympics straight into this, it's just been crazy."

'Nimble Kimble'

Earlier in the night, children's TV star Dani Harmer became the first celebrity to be eliminated, after nerves appeared to affect her showdance, performed to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

The remaining contestants then performed their favourite dance from the series, before Smith was revealed as the winner.

Making the final cut was a shock Denise Van Outen, who had been voted into the dance-off during the quarter and semi-finals.

The former Big Breakfast presenter was undoubtedly saved by a bravely acrobatic showdance, peppered with daring lifts and spins.

Tonioli called the routine "epic", while fellow judge Craig Revel Horwood said: "I can't believe the things your body did."

Image caption Bruno Tonioli called Walsh's showdance a "latin flavoured stun-o-rama"

"I can't believe it," Van Outen replied. "I'm nearly 40".

The judges also had high praise for pop star Kimberley Walsh, whom they dubbed "Nimble Kimble".

She set temperatures soaring with a pyrotechnic performance of Beyonce's Crazy In Love, involving a mid-routine costume change.

"Indecent, improper, absolute filth," said Horwood. "I loved it."

After the show, Smith told the BBC he had been convinced the Girls Aloud singer "was going to walk away with" the title.

"I thought she was outstanding. When they announced us, I couldn't believe it."

Walsh returned the compliment, saying "we all did our best and we all loved every minute of it".

Far from being disappointed, the 31-year-old said she felt a "bizarre sense of calm to know the result".

Ratings success

Although the main series has now ended, Strictly will return for a pre-recorded Christmas special on 25 December.

Among the newcomers will be actress Sheila Hancock, former footballer Fabrice Muamba, and Jonathan 'JB' Gill from pop group JLS.

Meanwhile, judge Darcey Bussell has confirmed she will return for the 2013 series, after making her debut this year.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my first series," she said, "and I'm absolutely delighted to be returning."

This year's competition - which also saw Jerry Hall, Lisa Riley and Fern Britton take part - regularly beat ITV rival The X Factor in the ratings.

Compared to last year, however, its viewing figures dropped slightly - from an average of 10.9m to 10.7m.

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