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Dancing with the Stars' J.R. Martinez talks about his tough lift with Karina Smirnoff

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Dwts Jr Karina
Adam Taylor/ABC
J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff knew they had to go for broke in their freestyle dance Monday, so they planned a salsa-inspired freestyle with lots of flashy tricks — namely, one that required the soap star to jump over his petite partner and straddle her neck. Ouch!

And yet, even after Smirnoff was seen looking stressed and spent in those rehearsal clips, the pair performed the manuever perfectly on Dancing with the Stars — enough to earn them a 30.

“All week you work so hard,” Martinez told reporters afterwards. “The lift, it was a scary thing…”

“Our morning was so stressful,” Smirnoff said. “We tried that lift and we nailed it last night, we were like okay. And we come in, it’s 8:30 in the morning and … we can’t do it, we just can’t do it. It’s like Monday morning so I panicked. But he literally brought me back. After the morning that we had, to nail that, it’s the best feeling in the world… I think I started crying at the end because I was so happy and relieved.”

“I use that stuff as motivation to come back,” Martinez continued. “I used that to show everyone that is not the way I dance and that is not the way she taught me how to dance.”

Unfortunately, their cha-cha earned a shockingly low 24, which Martinez blamed on his ankle injury. “I was too soon in my steps and I think I panicked because I did roll my ankle in my shoe. I just went and took a step too quick. The cha-cha was something I was doing well all week. I had it, but I was off and I found myself one step ahead of her. I knew I was going to be penalized for that.”

No sense wallowing, though. There’s no time! “We’re going to rehearse right now…we’re tied for second right now and Rob’s ahead of everybody, “Martinez said. “So Rob is obviously the one that has the biggest momentum in a way. We ended on a great note, so we gotta go rehearse right now.” — With reporting from Carrie Borzillo