Another victory! Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy aren’t just taking home a Mirrorball trophy from Dancing With the Stars — they’re walking away with a friendship too. The season 23 champs opened up exclusively about their big win with Us Weekly following the live finale on Tuesday, November 22.
“At the end of the day it’s not about the Mirrorball, it’s about the friendships that you create, and I created a friendship with an incredible young lady that I’ll be rooting for for a very long time,” Chmerkovskiy, 30, told Us.
“I do want to inspire others and that’s my goal, every day,” Hernandez, 16, added. “And because of Val, he’s taught me that it’s a good thing to go out and feel that pressure and have that responsibility.”
The Olympic gymnast and Chmerkovskiy were fan favorites from the start. Hernandez signed on to the ABC series shortly after competing at the Rio Games and compares her DWTS win to earning a gold medal.
“Honestly, I feel like they tie for each other,” she said. “I feel like the Olympics, as a little kid it was such a big goal that I created for myself and I was able to push through and make that happen. So for the Mirrorball — well, I’ve always loved to dance and that was my passion along with gymnastics, so winning the Mirrorball today was insane and amazing.”
This marks Chmerkovskiy’s second DWTS win. He previously took first place with partner Rumer Willis in season 20 in 2015.
“The first one was special, but this one I’m working with such a young, inspiring lady that I wanted to set an example through her,” the Ukrainian hunk told Us on Tuesday. “I wanted to set an example to her generation that anything is possible, and stay hungry and stay humble, and she’s a testament to that.”
“I’m excited that she’s going on tour with us,” Chmerkovskiy told Us. “She’s going to continue to be part of the DWTS family and we love to have her.”
Watch Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy get crowned the winners in the video above!