November 26, 2008 12:00 AM

Tears of the DWTS Crown: After ten weeks of competition and three months of grueling rehearsals, it’s no wonder emotions ran high on Tuesday night’s finale. “It was really trying,” Burke told PEOPLE, “physically, emotionally, you name it.” Once their names were announced, the usually composed Burke let the tears flow freely. “I think the emotional release was surreal,” a misty-eyed Burke gushed, “While we were standing up there, I said to Derek, ‘I can’t feel my feet!’

She wasn’t the only one crying in the ballroom. As the silver confetti rained down on the reigning DWTS couple, Hough’s girlfriend Shannon Elizabeth proudly snapped photos just offstage and David Charvet took in his fiance’s crowning moment with tears of joy brimming in his eyes with the couple’s two daughters by his side. “It’s almost like you’re out there with her,” said Charvet. “I had so much faith in her, but I didn’t think that she could achieve what she ended up achieving this year. She bluffed me completely and she continues to leave me speechless.” A Nail-Biter Til the End: Burke raised the mirror-ball trophy in triumph, but Warren Sapp and Lance Bass made it a tight race to the finish. “Brooke was definitely the best dancer on the show,” pro Karina Smirnoff said, “but the best dancer doesn’t always win on this show, and this season it was really anybody’s game.” “I thought that it was the closest finale ever! ” pro Tony Dovolani added, “There was really no loser tonight. Warren was incredible, and Lance was right there alongside. I had no idea who was going to win tonight, especially after Lance and Lacey took third.”

A Win-Win Situation: Dancing‘s resident “Teddy Bear,” Warren Sapp, may have finished second to Burke, but don’t call him a loser. “I may not be walking out without anything,” said Sapp, “but at least the guys that I played with can’t razz me for finishing worse than any other football player.” When it was pointed out that Emmett Smith was the season three champ, Sapp laughed and said, “But I got that ’10’ from Len, and I said, ‘I can go now!’ I went home, had a nice stiff drink.”

Lance’s Consolation Prize: Bass finished third in the competition, but he had nothing but praise for the winning pair. “I really thought that Brooke and Derek deserved to win,” Bass said after the show. “We couldn’t be happier for her.” Bass and partner Lacey Schwimmer’s consolation prize: performing on the DWTS tour, which the former boy bander referred to as a “vacation.” “I’m excited because the tour will actually be a nice break for us,” he said. “There won’t be judging you, you’re doing the same dances every night and you’re riding on the tour bus, having fun with your friends.”

More from Inside the Ballroom: • During the commercial break, the crowd warmer Corey Almeida informed the audience that Tuesday wasn’t just the finale, it was also Bruno Tonioli’s birthday before leading the audience in a rousing, off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.” With Tonioli standing up for his musical tribute, Carrie Ann Inaba leaned over, paddle in hand and started to gently spank Bruno, who gamely played along. Len Goodman then played the ultimate birthday prank on his good friend, pulling out his “5” and “3” paddles, and putting them together to reveal Bruno’s age to the audience. “Bastard!” Tonioli laughed when he realized what Goodman had done, “You’re not supposed to tell anyone!”

• Derek Hough’s mom, Mariann Nelson, shed tears of joy as she watched her son celebrate his win. Hough also received congratulatory hugs and kisses from his sister, two-time Dancing champ Julianne, and roommate and season six champ Mark Ballas. Nelson told PEOPLE that seeing the three longtime pals, who now all have mirror-ball trophies, warmed her heart: “I just remember when they were growing up together. They have been the best of friends and it’s so nice that they now have all won on this show. It’s wonderful.”

High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens, who sat next to season six champ Kristi Yamaguchi during Tuesday night’s finale, told PEOPLE “this was my first show ever. It was great.” At one point, Burke’s two daughters rushed over to the HSM star for a meet-and-greet only to get shy when Hudgens bent down to talk to them.

• During a commercial break, Kristi Yamaguchi stood up to ooh and ahh over co-host Samantha Harris’s Kwiat baubles. Harris was also decked out in a custom gown made by Project Runway designer Rami Kashou, who dressed the co-host on both nights of the show. –Reagan Alexander

READ MORE: Brooke Burke Is the New Dancing Queen


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