Taking part in 2020’s series of Strictly Come Dancing is television presenter JJ Chalmers and, while the Invictus Games medallist is ready for the Ballroom challenge, he’s admitted that he already has a head start with one particular dance.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press, the former Royal Marine revealed he began learning the Waltz for his brother’s wedding whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2011, with the help of fellow Marine and former semi-professional dancer Cassidy Little.
“Basically I said, ‘Mate, any chance in this downtime you can teach me how to Waltz because it would be amazing if I could come back and impress my girlfriend, my now-wife, with these out-of-nowhere dance moves.'”
He continued: “So the two of us, shorts on, middle of nowhere, 40-degree heat, started learning the moves.”
However, Chalmers added that just “a matter of weeks” later, both him and Little were severely injured in a bomb blast, which saw Little lose one of his legs while Chalmers’ body was “pulverised”.
“But [Little] would go on to win The People’s Strictly Come Dancing, doing the most incredible Paso Doble, or the Casa Doble as he called it,” Chalmers said. “So I had a great dance teacher once but all I’ll say is our training was cut short for obvious reasons.”
Chalmers sustained severe injuries in an IED blast whilst searching a suspected bomb-making factory, losing two fingers and shattering his right elbow.
“My arms essentially came off and they were stuck back on by incredible surgeons in the coming weeks and months — and years, for that matter,” he said. “My face was crushed, my neck was broken, my eardrums were burst, pretty much everything had had some level of damage, but except for a couple of fingers, everything was still there.”
When asked whether the Waltz will mean more to him if he’s able to perform it on the show, Chalmers said it “absolutely” would.
“I’ve got a bit of posture starting and a bit of the one-two-three, but yeah the idea that that’s definitely something, that’s unfinished business.”
He added: “But at the same time, [Cassidy] was a fantastic dancer but I’m hoping I’m not dancing with my mate Cass, put it that way.”
Four years after the IED blast, Little won The People’s Strictly Come Dancing – a four-part Comic Relief special which saw six inspirational members of the general public compete in the BBC dance competition – alongside professional dancer Natalie Lowe.
In 2014, Chalmers won a gold medal for recumbent road cycling and two bronze medals at the Invictus Games before forging a career in TV presenting. He’s covered the 2016 Summer Paralympics for Channel 4, the World Para Athletics for BBC Radio 5 and worked a number of sporting events for the BBC.
Additional reporting by Grace Henry.