The tearful star thanks DWTS for helping her remember her father

By Patrick Gomez
Updated November 24, 2015 11:55 PM
Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor

Bindi Irwin‘s final hours on Dancing with the Stars were emotional.

The star, who has spent the season paying tribute to her late father Steve Irwin, said the show let her work through feelings of growing up without her dad, who was killed in 2006.

“Here I am given this opportunity to remember moments in my life I never thought I’d be able to look at and smile,” a tearful Irwin, 17, said in the video package that aired before her final dance.

Pro Derek Hough said he was inspired by his partner, saying she taught him that “you can have struggle, but you can struggle with joy.”

“Whenever it feels too hard, she looks at that challenge with a smile on her face,” said Hough.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Tuesday’s episode of DWTS.

Irwin and Hough earned yet another perfect 10 for their Argentine tango – and were crowned the champions of DWTS season 21, beating out Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess and Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold.

“Thank you so much for everything. I can’t believe that I’m here,” Irwin said after winning. “Thank you for changing my life.”

After her win, she told PEOPLE she was in disbelief.

“This has been such a special experience. I can’t believe this has happened,” Irwin told PEOPLE.

DWTS season 21 may be over, but the show returns for season 22 on March 21, 2016.