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Calum Best tipped to win Celebrity SAS show by former winner

“Sometimes people like that can surprise you. He had been through a lot and this course takes a different kind of strength.”

Calum Best

Calum Best third from left with the Who Dares Wins team

AJ Pritchard

Connor Smyth

Sunday World

Calum Best could be a surprise winner on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, says former victor Connor Smyth.

The man from Newtownards, Co Down emerged the leader from last year’s gruelling Channel 4 show thanks to his dancer’s discipline.

Connor, who’s performed all over the world with Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, says he’ll be backing Strictly’s AJ Pritchard on this year’s celebrity version of the SAS training course.

AJ Pritchard

But he’s also got high hopes for Calum (41), the former playboy and only child of football legend George Best, who’s now an NSPCC ambassador.

“In his younger days Calum loved being in the limelight but maybe he has matured,” says Connor.

“More recently he’s talked a lot about looking after your mental health and wellbeing so maybe he’s turned a corner.

“Sometimes people like that can surprise you. He had been through a lot and this course takes a different kind of strength.”

Connor Smyth

The line-up for the seven-part show includes EastEnders actor Maisie Smith, former TOWIE star Ferne McCann, Love Island winner Amber Gill and sports star Dwain Chambers. Olympic javelin gold medal winner Fatima Whitbread is the oldest of the 14 competitors at 61.

Connor says any of the stars who went into the show expecting an easy ride have had a nasty shock.

The instructors, known as staff, never let up on anyone taking part in the course and the contestants are filmed constantly.

“There is no respite. People asked me if the director says ‘cut’ and you all have a cup of tea, but that doesn’t happen.

“Whether you’re scaling a mountain or jumping off a boat, the course is 24/ 7 and it’s full on.

“If any of the celebrities went in expecting a boot camp or a reality TV show, their celebrity status was wiped as soon as they started the course.”

Calum Best third from left with the Who Dares Wins team

And he reveals it took weeks for his mind to settle after filming ended.

The course piles the stress on contestants by reducing their food intake and disturbing their sleep. They’re also kept cold and wet and constantly dealing with blisters, cuts and minor injuries.

“The toughest part is that you never switch off. There was a constant sense of anxiety every day. You’d sleep for an hour and they’d get you up to do your shift watching the camp, so there’s never a chance to chill out in case they ambush you or make you do a five-mile run.

“For weeks afterwards I was waking up in the middle of the night and running to pack a backpack before realising I was safe in my own bedroom.”

He believes each of the celebs will have signed up for the condensed version of the course for their own reasons, and the instructors will want to know why.

The hardest part for the professional dancer was the final interrogation after hours of sensory deprivation, when they were held blindfolded in stress positions and bombarded with the sound of crying babies and screaming pigs.

Connor says his dance training helped him through all of it.

“People always ask me when I was getting screamed at all the time was I not tempted to punch them, but I’m used to being shouted at and taking it on the chin.

“After going through years of Irish dancing training, it’s like water off a duck’s back. You use it as fuel.

“AJ will have the strength and resilience and robustness because of his dancing and as a pro he has taken it to the highest level.”

He says it should be the Olympians who handled the ordeal best because they’ve also had to cope with the mental demands of training.

Before taking part in the show last year Connor spent two months training his mind and his body – and it paid off.

“I went to some dark places to make sure I was ready. I had a point to prove, and I couldn’t go on this TV show and show any weakness.

“You’re training until your mind is telling you to stop because you’re doing harm to your body.

“For the Olympians if you have competed at the highest level you already have the mental strength as well as the physical strength.”

He’s about to head off on tour again with the international dance spectacle which is now training the next generation of talent through the Abbey School of Irish Dance.

And after winning the show last year he has no regrets about taking part.

“I came out knowing I could push myself further than ever, that my mind is able to take so much more pain and suffering than I ever thought,” says Connor.

Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins starts on Channel 4 on September 4 at 9pm.

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