Strictly’s Olympians more nervous to dance than compete in Rio

Long jumper Greg Rutherford and gymnast Claudia Fragapane say the only advantage of being a sports star is they enjoy getting constructive criticism


You’d think competing for your country would be one of the scariest things to do, but long jumper Greg Rutherford and gymnast Claudia Fragapane say that Strictly Come Dancing is a much more terrifying prospect.


“Genuinely think I’m more nervous for this,” bronze medal winning Rutherford told after joking that despite occasionally cutting some shapes on the dance floor on a night out it can resemble a “drunken spider”.

Fragapane – like Rutherford – is heading straight from Rio to the ballroom and says it’s such a completely different discipline to her professional gymnastics career that, despite being bookies’ favourite (“No pressure!”), it’s not really an advantage.

“If I make a mistake I cover it up – it’s kind of hard to do that when you’re with a partner,” she explained. “I find it difficult being that close to someone, looking them in the eye. I’ll probably start laughing!”

Rutherford admits his fitness from Games training will help in rehearsals, although he’s gutted he can’t “get fat”.

“Normally this time of year I’m starting to ramp it down, put on some weight, drink and eat what I want to. I did that for about 2 or 3 days and then I had to think ‘Ok, I can’t get fat.’ Straight back into athlete mode.”

“I was going to take four months after the games, go on holiday enjoy myself…” he added wistfully, “and then this came up – this is the one year I can probably do it.”

However, the pair both agree that one thing they’ll definitely take in their stride is criticism.

“Tell me what I need to improve,” pleaded Fragapane of facing judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Darcey Bussell.

“In our world you’re told that you’re bad and to improve most of the time,” explained Rutherford. “For me, my coach will tell me everything I’ve done wrong and then when I do something right they won’t say anything. So for me it’s great.

“[Here] it’s that showbiz world, everyone wants to tell you you’re doing great,” he added. “I know I’m not doing great, don’t tell me I’m great, because I’m not!”


Strictly Come Dancing returns Saturday at 6:50pm on BBC1