From 50 competitors to 12 finalists, one champion took home the trophy for “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.”
â€œAmericaâ€™s Got Talent: The Championsâ€ brought together 50 competitors from past seasons and editions around the world.
But in the end, the two competitors vying for the title were of recent and familiar vintage: the 2017 â€œAGTâ€ champ, ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer, andÂ last summerâ€™s winner, sleight-of-hand artist Shin Lim.
AfterÂ the field of 12 finalists was winnowedÂ during the last 20 minutes ofÂ Monday’s two-hour, noncompetition finale, Lim claimed the trophy and the $25,000 winnerâ€™s prize.
â€œIt was awesome and such a fun run,â€ Lim tells USA TODAY of his victory, which was punctuated by a fall to the ground when host Terry Crews announced his name.
Crews, who had an up-close spot for Limâ€™s winning routine in last week’s show, marvels at his skill.
More: ‘AGT: Champions’ host Terry Crews on a finale combo: ‘It will blow people’s minds’
More: ‘AGT: The Champions’ recap: From Susan Boyle to Darci Lynne Farmer, who could win it all?
â€œHeâ€™s incredible,” he says. “I was trying to catch what he was doing. I was watching cards disappear in his bare hands and I was like, â€˜What in the world?â€™ You know itâ€™s a trick, but he was fooling me every time.â€Â
Although Lim is delighted with the result, the gracious champion is not certain the voters, a panel of superfans representing allÂ 50 states, got it right.
â€œDarci Lynne deserved it. She can sing, she can do comedy, all with her mouth closed. That’s almost like me doing magic without my hands.Â â€¦ And she sang opera, for Godâ€™s sake,” he says. “Obviously, Iâ€™m thankful for (the superfans)Â voting me through and I couldn’t be happier.â€Â
Other top finishers announcedÂ late in Mondayâ€™s show, which featured numerous exhibitions and creative groupings,Â include: sand artistÂ Kseniya Simonova of â€œUkraineâ€™s Got Talentâ€ in third place; singer Cristina Ramos of the Spanish version in fourth; and, rounding out the top five, comedian and Season 12 finalist Preacher Lawson. Â Â
Crews had some favorites.Â â€œI always have loved Preacher Lawson. I think heâ€™s a superstar. Iâ€™m a big fan of Darci Lynne and my girl, Kseniya, (who I chose) with my golden buzzer,â€ he says. â€œTheyâ€™ve proven they’reÂ at the top of their game. Thereâ€™s Susan Boyle, too, for goodness’ sakes.â€
More: Darci Lynne Farmer, 12, is the new champion of ‘America’s Got Talent’
Lim, 27, who’s had to stay mum about his victory since the fall taping, almost didnâ€™t compete in theÂ special edition of NBCâ€™s top-rated summer showÂ because it was taped right after Season 13.
â€œThey said they had this show called â€˜Champions.â€™ I had just won â€˜Americaâ€™s Got Talent.â€™ I was like, â€˜No, Iâ€™m good. Iâ€™ll take a break. I want to relax,’ â€ he says. â€œBut then I thought, ‘This is kind of crazy to have all the winners compete against each other. Itâ€™s like “The Hunger Games” almost.’ I thought, â€˜Iâ€™ll give it a shot. Who knows?â€™ â€
The downside was that he didnâ€™t have time to developÂ new card tricks, but that didnâ€™t hold him back. His performance in last weekâ€™s finals competition was a variation of The Dream Act, a mesmerizing routine viewers may remember from Season 13’sÂ semifinals.
â€œI guess they really liked it, with the twist at the end when the (cards) appeared in (judge Howie Mandelâ€™s) cup,â€ Lim says.
Lim, who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and grew up in Massachusetts, started piano training at 9 and didnâ€™t begin doing card tricks until he was 16, a late start for a future professional. He studied piano in college, but carpal tunnel syndrome eventually forced him to decideÂ between the two pursuits.Â
â€œI was practicing too much, music and then sleight of hand. All this rigorous training with my fingers was too much for my wrist to handle. The tendons got too inflamed,â€ says Lim, who takes a break after two hours of practice.
LimÂ gives much of the credit for his â€œAGTâ€ success to his fiancee, Casey Thomas. â€œShe helped me emotionally through the whole thing, because itâ€™s a pretty stressful experience.â€
Thomas, a dancer who was working with another magician when the coupleÂ began dating, provided technical expertise, too. â€œShe helped me in so many different ways, like camera angles, helping me block my acts, coming up with ideas to improve the act. She has a lot of creative solutions,â€ Lim says.
The sleight-of-hand artist, a term he prefers over magician, had achieved professional success before â€œAGT,â€ winning an international card-trick title in 2015 and appearing twice on CWâ€™s â€œPenn Teller: Fool Us.â€ But winning â€œAGTâ€ brought a new level of visibility.
â€œPenn Tellerâ€ â€œgot me notoriety among magicians and hardcore nerds that watch magic, but never the lay public. Winning (“AGT”) changed everything,â€ he says, leading to â€œway more gigsâ€ and a semi-residency that begins in May at ventriloquist and Season 2 champ Terry Fatorâ€™s theater at The Mirage in Las Vegas.
Heâ€™ll also be touring, butÂ will have to take a break for another important event in a busy year: his August wedding to Thomas in Hawaii.
The career and the relationship were proceeding well without â€œChampions,â€ but Lim wanted to see how he would do against such an esteemed field. â€œIn a way, I did it to prove myself, to say that I belonged with these amazing 49 contestants.â€
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