Strictly Come Dancing 2019 looks to be one of the most tightly-fought contests yet, with several surprisingly good celeb dancers.
While Kelvin Fletcher, Karim Zeroual and Michelle Visage are all currently vying for the top spot, the judges have been similarly impressed by the energetic routines of Paralympic table tennis player Will Bayley and his partner Janette Manrara.
The 31-year-old, who was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, or AMC, (curvature of the limbs), achieved an impressive score of 26 for his Quickstep, leading head judge Shirley Ballas to ask: “What disability? What limitations? That was absolutely off the charts!”
But no-one is as surprised as gold medal winner Bayley, who struggled with his condition when he was a child. Now entering Movie Week with a Paso Doble to the Pokemon theme, Bayley is hoping to inspire others with disabilities.
“A lot of people said I wasn’t going to even be able to walk,” he told RadioTimes.com. “So it’s really cool to be dancing on Strictly. It’s nuts.
“I’ve had messages from so many people, and not just disabled people. A lot of messages are from parents of disabled children. A lot of people who struggle with my conditions don’t know if they’re going to walk or what the future is going to hold. I think it’s giving them a bit of help to know that you can overcome the condition if you’re determined enough, and you can really make something of yourself.”
Bayley is the third Paralympic athlete to take part in Strictly, having followed in the footsteps of sprint runner Jonnie Peacock, who took part in 2017, and last year’s quarter-finalist Lauren Steadman.
Paralympian Libby Clegg will also be participating on ITV’s Dancing on Ice next year – with Bayley praising the better representation of disabled people on the small screen.
“I think it’s great to see more people with disabilities on TV,” he said. “It’s brilliant for young people, especially with disabilities to overcome, to look up to people pushing themselves.
“With my disability specifically, I think it’s really important as there isn’t a lot of great media stuff out there. If you Google my disability, there’s not a lot of positive stories. Strictly is a really good opportunity to be positive and try and inspire people.”
Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC One, Saturday at 7:10pm