Dancing with the Stars: Kristi Takes the Crown!

Dancing with the Stars: Kristi Takes the Crown!
KELSEY McNEAL/ABC

05/20/2008 AT 12:00 PM EDT

After five seasons of watching the men win Dancing with the Stars, Kristi Yamaguchi broke the curse and raised the mirror-ball trophy in triumph for the ladies.

“I love it! I guess ‘k’ is a good initial to have,” Yamaguchi gushed to host Tom Bergeron moments after she and partner Mark Ballas learned they had won.

Not since General Hospital actress Kelly Monaco’s win in season one has a female contestant been Dancing champ.

And Yamaguchi pulled it with absolute perfection, scoring 10s for all three of her finale dances–a first in Dancing history.

“I’ve had the experience of a lifetime,” Yamaguchi told PEOPLE. It’s great to know after having two kids and not competing for 16 years that I can still push myself.”

Yamaguchi’s closest competitor, NFL star Jason Taylor, who was partnered with pro Edyta Sliwinska, was runner-up. Cristian de la Fuente and his partner Cheryl Burke finished in third place.

With a perfect 90 out of 90 from the judges, Yamaguchi and Ballas also won the viewers’ vote.

Praised all season-long for her technical ability, Yamaguchi fell short when it came to showing more of her personality in the dances. But the gold medalist figure skater was the complete package during the two-night finale, showing off complicated lifts, flips and everything in between.

She and Ballas headed into Tuesday night’s third and final dance at the top the leader board, having scored perfect 10s for their previous two dances, the cha-cha face-off and their high-flying hip-hop flavored freestyle, which even blew away the usually conservative head judge Len Goodman. They completed their perfect set of scores with another set of 10s for their jive on Tuesday.

Before the finale, Yamaguchi told PEOPLE, “I want to defy the odds. i’m going to go for it. We need some girl power out there.” And she delivered perfectly.

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