Kara Tointon wins Strictly Come Dancing
London: Kara Tointon collected Strictly Come Dancing`s glitterball trophy after viewers gave the former East Enders actress most votes following Saturday night`s live final of the BBC dance competition.
The 28-year-old actress earlier dazzled judges with a series of "first class" routines.
She pipped Matt Baker to the title after third finalist Pamela Stephenson was first to be eliminated.
"It`s just the most special thing that I`ve ever achieved," Tointon said, before turning to dance partner Artem Chigvintsev and saying: "I want to thank this man, he`s been wonderful. I made the most fantastic friend for life."
Countryfile presenter Baker, 31, who was a pre-final favourite to take the trophy, said the romantically linked pair were "worthy winners".
Tointon and Chigvintsev drew standing ovations throughout the tense final and their performances were rewarded with high scores from the judges.
Presenter Tess Daly fuelled suggestions the pair were romantically linked, telling the audience that Chigvintsev had promised to take his partner on a "date" now the show has finished.
In the climax to the eighth series, the final two couples performed four routines including their highest scoring dance from the series and a "no holds barred" show dance.
Tointon, who was nursing a wrist injury, still managed to wow the judges with handsprings and cartwheels in her show dance to Queen`s Don`t Stop Me Now..
Psychologist Stephenson, wife of comic legend Billy Connolly, was the first finalist to be eliminated.
Before she bowed out, she won unanimous applause from the judges as she took to the stage in a striking turquoise dress with partner James Jordan.
But though the New Zealand-born 61-year-old`s effort was termed "a terrific, uplifting tribute to a movie classic" by Tonioli, she failed to win over the public and received the fewest public votes meaning she left the competition.
The best-selling author, actress and clinical psychologist has admitted it will be hard to go back to work after her time on the dancefloor.