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Melissa O'Neil, the 17-year-old powerhouse from Calgary who won over fans with her emotional vocals and poised stage presence, is the latest Canadian Idol.

O'Neil embraced runner-up Rex Goudie of Burlington, Nfld., on Wednesday as host Ben Mulroney declared her winner of the televised singing contest.

"Oh my God, thank you so much," an ecstatic O'Neil yelled, throwing a shout-out to her hometown.

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"Calgary, yes! Calgary! Canada, thank you so much!"

She's the first female to take the Canadian Idol crown.

The athletic teen initially auditioned for the show straight from playing in a basketball game. She also has a passion for rugby.

During the competition, she occasionally found herself in danger of being voted off, at one point forgetting the words to a song. She always recovered, however, receiving praise from the judges for exuding a maturity beyond her years.

As Canadian Idol's Season Three winner, O'Neil will receive a recording contract and release the single Alive.

But backstage, immediately after the show, she was insistent that she also plans to finish her final year of high school.

"I'm not taking a year off, I'm going to just let everyone know that right now. I'm either going to get a tutor or I'll get correspondence," she said.

She conceded, however, that she might have to put her rugby career on hold: "I don't think they'd let me play in case I get hurt."

O'Neil received high praise from the judges this week. During Wednesday's finale, judge Sass Jordan said the young singer has "the most phenomenal, natural instincts for being a performer."

During Tuesday's sing-off with Goudie, judge Zack Werner predicted she would surpass past Idol winners Ryan Malcolm and Kalan Porter.

"In year one we had a waiter boy. In year two we had a little prince," he said. "Thursday morning it's going to say, 'The king is dead, long live the queen."'

O'Neil received a congratulatory call from Prime Minister Paul Martin directly after the show.

The high-energy two-hour finale kicked off with a medley by the Top 10 contestants, and featured performances by the Barenaked Ladies, Jordan and Porter.

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It also included updates from Calgary's Roundup Centre, where O'Neil's screaming supporters -- including the city's Mayor -- clutched buttons and signs dedicated to their hometown hero.

Goudie's fans, meanwhile, packed an arena in Corner Brook, Nfld.

As runner-up, he likely won't walk away empty-handed. The show -- which auditions hundreds of young people across Canada each year -- gives singers once-in-a-lifetime exposure.

Many past top 10 contestants -- including last year's runner-up Theresa Sokyrka -- have gone on to recording success.

About 3.6 million votes were cast to decided Wednesday's winner.

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