Strictly Come Dancing: Kara Tointon wins!

Kara Tointon has been crowned champion of Strictly Come Dancing 2010 after seeing off competition from Matt Baker in the last stage of the final.

The former EastEnders actress triumphed after a closely-fought final in which each of the finalists performed four routines.

Matt and his partner Aliona Vilani finished in second place while earlier in the evening comedienne Pamela Stephenson and her dance partner James Jordan finished third.

Kara – who partnered Strictly newcomer Artem Chigvintsev – found it hard to hide her emotion at being crowned champion.

“It’s the most special thing that I have ever achieved,” she said, “and thank you to Artem, who has been absolutely wonderful. I’m a bit embarrassed but I’ve made the most fantastic friend for life.”

Russian-born Artem – who had been appearing in his first series of the show – also paid tribute to Kara. “Thank you, you’re amazing,” he told her.

There has been speculation of a romance between the couple throughout the series – which was further fuelled on Friday’s spin-off show It Takes Two when Artem announced he would be taking Kara on a date after the final had finished.

Runner-up Matt Baker also said that Kara deserved to win the series.

“It’s been great,” he said of his time on the show. “I have absolutely thoroughly enjoyed tonight, and Kara and Artem are worthy winners. If I was at home I would be voting for Kara too.”

The second half of Saturday’s final saw both Kara and Matt perform two further routines – one they had never performed before along with a favourite from the series – in a bid for the trophy.

Having triumphed with his samba in the first half of the show, Matt once again won praise from the judges for his paso doble, and a reprise of his Viennese Waltz.

“I think this dance was made for you,” Alesha Dixon said, “this is where you come alive.”

Len and Bruno weren’t so sure, however, leaving Craig to make a surprising admission. “Actually I rather liked it,” he said. “I thought you were hitting some fantastic lines in that, you still do all that wonderful flamenco which is really rather difficult.”

However he fared rather better with his final dance. “You’re an excellent dancer,” Len told him, “and an excellent ballroom dancer.”

“You’re the last man standing,” Alesha added, “but you’ve been impressive from the very beginning of this competition.”

Kara won raves for her final two dances, meanwhile – performing a waltz for the first time and reprising her American Smooth.

“You’re a great example of what can be achieved with hard work and dedication,” Alesha said. “I’m so at ease watching you dance.” Bruno meanwhile, praised her movement, saying it was “a pleasure to watch”.

And when Len had reservations about her American Smooth – her final dance of the night – Alesha was once again enthusiastic. “I’m quite sad that’s going to be the last dance we get to see you do,” she said, “you’re the most exquisite dancer I’ve seen on Strictly.”

Craig, meanwhile, summed it up more succinctly. “I would kill to be able to dance like that,” he said, “that was just amazing.”

In winning, Kara now joins an elite group of Strictly champions who include Alesha Dixon, actor Tom Chambers and last year’s winner Chris Hollins.