It’s the call every athlete is waiting for.
No, not the England manager ringing to say you’ve made the World Cup squad, nor learning you’re heading to an Olympic Games.
“You’re in,” says an excited agent on the other end of the phone. “You’re going to be on Strictly.”
It’s the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to slide into something shiny and test your dancing prowess against TV presenters, celebrity chefs, influencers and Jimmy Tarbuck.
Sport stars on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ have endured mixed fortunes, with some going all the way while one never made it to the show opener.
With former England goalkeeper David James the latest to enter the fray, we look back at some of the most memorable sporting contestants from years gone by.
Mark Ramprakash, Darren Gough
The ultimate examples of sporting excellence giving way to Strictly immortality. Cricketers have proved to be the gold standard, with Ramprakash winning the 2006 series, one year after Gough took the title. Gough took it one step further, backing up his win with glory in the Christmas special. Howzat?
Team GB long jumper Johnson didn’t have the best Strictly experience, suffering a serious knee ligament injury forcing her to pull out of the 2009 edition of the show. Despite returning to perform a tango on the night of the final, the injury was actually serious enough to see her miss out on the 2012 London Olympics. “I thought the show injury had healed and I was ready to compete,” Jade lamented. “Sadly it flared up just before the trials and made it impossible to get through them.”
At just 18, artistic gymnast Fragapane was the second youngest contestant to feature on the show when she appeared in 2016. Despite an impressive run to semi-final, she and partner AJ Pritchard fell just short. Speaking afterwards, the four-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist admitted she loved the experience. “I’m just so happy that I’ve made it this far and everyone has just been incredible. I feel like a different person now, all thanks to this show.”
Paralympic paratriathlon silver medalist Steadman featured in 2018 and like Fragapane before her, reached the semi-final while partnering with AJ Pritchard. Steadman’s performance was praised for helping ‘change’ perceptions about people with disabilities.
A TV camera was the envy of many footballers when it broke Savage’s nose during an ill-fated knee slide in 2011. The former Wales midfielder recovered to finish in a respectable sixth place.
The Olympic cycling gold medalist swapped the velodrome for the dance floor after retiring from the sport in 2012. Fresh off her victory in the Kerin in London, Pendleton partnered with Brendan Cole. After back-to-back weeks at the bottom of the leaderboard, she was booted off the show after failing to impress the judges.
Smith and his chest were the stars of Strictly 2012. An Olympic bronze medalist, Smith said he found training for the show harder than gymnastics. A perfect score for his Charleston alongside partner Flavia Cacace was the high point of his series-winning run, going on to take the honours in the Christmas show too.