Despite injuries, Jennifer Grey is ‘Dancing’ champ

LOS ANGELES: Jennifer Grey is having the time of her life again after overcoming painful neck and back injuries and a voting bloc for Bristol Palin to become the new ”Dancing With the Stars” champion.Grey, who consistently topped the judges’ leaderboard throughout the season, took the title on the television celebrity dance competition Tuesday, outscoring fellow finalistsr Kyle Massey and Bristol Palin, who was buoyed for weeks by passonate voters and online efforts to support the single mom.Disney Channel star Massey finished second. Palin, the daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was third.Grey dazzled the judges with her routines just as she did filmgoers as Patrick Swayze’s partner in the climactic ballroom dance to ”(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” in the 1987 film ”Dirty Dancing.”

Grey gave a nod to her breakthrough film role by performing a waltz Tuesday with her profesional partner Derek Hough.”It’s a great gift to be part of a show that gives people so much joy,” Grey said after the show. ”And that’s really what I think dancing does.”Grey, who overcame painful neck, back and knee injuries to earn three perfect scores in the run-up to Tuesday’s finale, said her mind went blank in the moments before she was named the winner.”I was in a surrender moment of whatever happens will be great,” the 50-year-old actress said after the show, an ice pack tucked into the back of her fringe-covered costume as she spoke with reporters. ”The absolute destination for me was the journey. The journey was the gift.”Still, Grey was happy to have the mirrorball trophy, and to turn her partner, Hough, into the show’s first three-time winner.The actress plans to keep the trophy in her daughter’s room, adding, ”She earned it.”

Grey’s husband, actor Clark Gregg, and their daughter were regulars in the ballroom each week throughout Grey’s run on the show.Grey was a consistent high-scorer who earned a string of perfect 10s for several recent dances. Her victory didn’t surprise her fellow finalists.”I thought from day one Jennifer was going to win,” said professional dancer Lacey Schwimmer, who finished in second place as Massey’s partner.Palin said she didn’t have any expectations when she decided to do ”Dancing With the Stars,” but on Tuesday’s episode, she said that winning the ABC dance contest ”would be like a big middle finger to all the people out there that hate my mom and hate me.”After the show, Palin’s partner, Mark Ballas, downplayed the voting controversy that threatened to overshadow the couple’s performances.”Politics aside, this is a dance show,” he said. ”Let’s just focus on the good things.”But voter support for Palin, including get-out-the-vote efforts spearheaded by some conservative bloggers, became a focal point during the ”Dancing” season, as week after week former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s daughter outlasted more talented dancers. A flurry of media coverage erupted when Bristol Palin was voted in over the singer Brandy _ who had received a perfect score for her tango _ prompting some viewers to question the veracity of the ”Dancing” voting system.

Producers maintained that the system was sound and Palin was just very popular.The show did experience some voting problems this week. Producers said Tuesday that ”a record amount of activity” overloaded its online and telephone voting systems after Monday’s episode.”Some viewers reported experiencing difficulties registering their votes for the ‘Dancing With the Stars’ finale, which affected each finalist equally,” show producers said in a statement. ”The issue was promptly addressed” and voting times were not extended.Palin acknowledged that the voting frenzy may have been good for the show.”I think it boosted its ratings,” she said.Viewer votes are combined with judges’ scores to determine where each couple stands.Tuesday’s two-hour season finale also included performances by Christina Aguilera and colorful routines from some of this season’s past contestants, including a ”Baywatch”-themed number by David Hasselhoff, a dance showdown between pro athletes Rick Fox and Kurt Warner, and a quickstep by Brandy that got a standing ovation.Comedian Margaret Cho, actress Florence Henderson and reality star Mike ”The Situation” Sorrentino also appeared on the season closer.Cho’s professional partner, Louis Van Amstel, has an idea for how the show can top itself next season: ”Bring in a same-sex couple,” he said. ”Why not?” – Dawn