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40 years at the top 'Performing live on Strictly Coming Dancing was the most nerve-racking experience of my life'

Daniel reveals that he had often fantasised about dancing on the BBC TV show as a contestant

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Daniel discovered that professional dancing demanded skills and fitness he had never imagined

Daniel discovered that professional dancing demanded skills and fitness he had never imagined

Daniel discovered that professional dancing demanded skills and fitness he had never imagined

AS a major fan of Strictly Come Dancing, Daniel reveals that he had often fantasised about dancing on the BBC TV show as a contestant.

Imagine his excitement then when he received an email from the show asking if he would be interested in taking part.

Looking back today, Daniel says: “As the saying goes, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ That was certainly true in my case.”

The invitation had come at a good time in Daniel’s life, as it was during a period when he’d taken a step back from touring.

“So, it was my golden opportunity to shine on Strictly, or so I thought,” he says. “One of the greatest joys in life for me is dancing, so I’ve always loved jiving and waltzing on the social scene. I just never realised how far removed it was from the dance moves I would have to master on Strictly.

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Daniel O'Donnell says he's thankful for how patient partner Kristina was

Daniel O'Donnell says he's thankful for how patient partner Kristina was

Daniel O'Donnell says he's thankful for how patient partner Kristina was

“But I do like a challenge and I felt that Strictly was a great challenge at my time of life. After all, I was 54 years old at the time.”

Daniel started his first week on Strictly in September 2015 when he was paired up with one of their professional dancers, Kristina Rihanoff.

“Kristina has many great attributes, but the one I appreciated the most was her patience,” he says.

“When I was told that my first dance was the waltz, it came as a huge relief. I could do that with my eyes closed, I thought. How wrong can you be!’”

Daniel soon discovered that professional dancing demanded skills and fitness he had never imagined. “There were many times when I stopped and thought, ‘Why did I want to do this?’ But there was no going back.”

Despite being a professional entertainer, Daniel admits that performing live on the show was the most nerve-racking experience of his life. “I couldn’t believe how nervous I was,” he says.

Daniel would go on to dance the waltz, the Charleston, the cha-cha-cha … and then came the American smooth foxtrot.

“I was less nervous than on the previous shows,” he says. “We danced to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon. On the floor, I felt I had a good take-off and a smooth landing, and I managed the lifts without dropping Kristina.”

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Kristina Rihanoff and her partner Daniel O'Donnell

Kristina Rihanoff and her partner Daniel O'Donnell

Kristina Rihanoff and her partner Daniel O'Donnell

However, Daniel and Kristina ended up in a dance-off, and his second attempt at the American smooth didn’t go well. They were voted out.

“I have no regrets about taking on the Strictly challenge,” Daniel says today. “I would hate to be sitting here wondering what it would have been like. Now I know that it wasn’t for me, but at least I won’t die wondering.”

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