After 11 incredible weeks in the competition, the former Bachelorette and her pro partner were announced as the winners at the end of Monday night’s finale, beating out Nev Schulman and Jenna Johnson (second place), Nelly and Daniella Karagach (third place), and Justina Machado and Sasha Farber (fourth place).
Speaking with ET just moments after the show wrapped, Kaitlyn and Artem couldn’t seem to contain their excitement over the win, admitting that there were definitely some tears in the ballroom.
“I was thinking about where I was a year ago, exactly. Where I was not a part of last season, how I felt that [my] old dancing dreams were done and dusted, and that I was never going to be able to perform on that stage at all,” Artem reflected. “And then just standing with Kaitlyn in the final and being called as the champion of the season? I mean, it was such a surreal moment that I never thought it would be, in the reality of this world.”
“Yeah, it’s absolutely crazy,” he added. “It made me so emotional because of that.”
Kaitlyn, who has wanted to compete on Dancing With the Stars for years following her time on The Bachelorette, finally got her chance this season, and clearly, all her patience and hard work paid off.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Kaitlyn said of her unique journey. “But to me it’s like, if you believe in something and if you have a passion or a dream … when you think of anyone who’s gotten somewhere, I guarantee they have a story about what it took to get there.”
“So for me, it makes it all so much better that I had this dream. That it was taken away, that I still believed in it, that I worked hard for it, that I stayed true to myself through it,” she continued. “Same thing with Artem. You just never know when it’s going to happen and the fact that everything just aligned for us and that we’re here with the Mirrorball, like, what?”
Kaitlyn and Artem both agreed that they don’t think they could have won the Mirrorball without that adversity.
“I was on a journey with the show and the [Bachelor] franchise. Everything that’s happened, it’s just like, I look back on it and I’m like, ‘I am glad I didn’t go on DWTS five years ago, to get this here today,'” Kaitlyn said. “I am grateful for everything. I can look back on it with gratitude. Who would have thought.”
In addition to all the fan love they’ve received over social media, Kaitlyn’s boyfriend, Jason Tartick, shared a hilarious reel to Instagram, which showed him reacting to the exciting winning moment in real time with a bottle of champagne. He also raved about Kaitlyn on Twitter, writing, “She freaking did it, what a dream come true from an amazing human that deserves it!!!”
“Oh my gosh, I have to go home to probably clean that up,” Kaitlyn joked to ET. “That doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve never had someone so supportive of something that I’ve wanted to achieve and accomplish.”
“Artem was just saying, when you can have success and share it with loved ones, I was nodding my head the whole time, like, ‘You’re so right,'” she continued. “To have a support system and people who believe in you, who don’t make you feel [guilty]. I think about five years ago, if I would have came on this show. I just would have felt guilty and this allowed me to be in the moment, be present and live my dream, knowing I had support at home.”
Meanwhile, Artem’s fiancée, Nikki Bella, took to Instagram to share a video of their newborn son Matteo wide-eyed and smiling after hearing about his Daddy’s fate. This marks the first time Artem has ever won the U.S. version of Dancing With the Stars (he won Strictly Come Dancing with Kara Tointon in 2010).
“I saw that video and I literally said, ‘This is the best thing I’ve seen in my life,'” Artem exclaimed, with Kaitlyn adding, “I watched that video and was like, ‘He knows. He gets it!'”
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