Has 'Strictly' already found its 2019 winner? Show stand-in storms the leaderboard

Katie Archer
Contributor
(BBC)

Strictly Come Dancing fans who were disappointed to hear that Jamie Laing had been forced to drop out of the series due to injury must have been thanking their lucky stars after Kelvin Fletcher’s debut performance.

The ex-Emmerdale actor stepped in to replace Jamie as Oti Mabuse’s partner with just two weeks’ notice after the Made in Chelsea star injured his foot in the launch show group dance.

Read more: Kelvin Fletcher replaces Jamie Laing on Strictly

But despite being a latecomer to the show, Kelvin wowed the crowd, the viewers at home, and the judges with his energetic Samba which topped the leaderboard.

Kelvin threw himself into his dance, giving his fast-footed partner Oti a run for her money - and showing off his well-defined muscles.

The judges were gushing in their praise, as head judge Shirley Ballas told him: “To be a great dancer, you have to be in touch with your feminine side. You are outstanding.”

Read more: Anneka Rice out of group dance after being injured by Anton Du Beke

Bruno Tonioli, fanning his co-star Shirley, added: “I think you started a chain reaction of hot flushes across the country.

“This is the best week one Samba I've seen here, in America, in Australia.”

Even the usually grumpy Craig Revel Horwood told him: “God works in mysterious ways. Amazing.”

And new judge Motsi Mabuse, the elder sister of Kelvin’s partner Oti, said: “Are we not glad you made it here.”

Kelvin and Oti scored a huge 32 points, putting them at the top of the competition after the first episode, and leaving plenty of fans wondering whether they’d already spotted the series winner.

Not far behind him, though, was CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual and his partner Janette Manrara, who impressed with 31 points.

The judges also had high scores for Michelle Visage who danced with Giovanni Pernice, and Dev Griffin who partnered Dianne Buswell.

But at the other end of the table, James Cracknell struggled with a wooden, stooped performance which was labelled lethargic.

Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday, September 28 to BBC One.