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Ellie Simmonds ready to sparkle as she prepares for Strictly challenge

Paralympics star among those rehearsing ahead of dancing show's launch weekend.

Dust off those mirrorballs, dig out the sequins and shine those dancing shoes: Strictly Come Dancing is back.

The 20th series of the dance competition will, as ever, see a star-studded line-up of contestants take to the floor as they waltz, quickstep, jive and tango their way towards that sought-after Glitterball Trophy.

The show launches on Friday, with a recorded opening in which the stars are paired up with the professional dancers. It is then straight into it with the first live competition on Saturday.

Those taking to the dancefloor in this series include Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, from Aldridge in the West Midlands.

The stars from Strictly Come Dancing 2022, which will launch on Friday night as we see who is paired together, followed by a live competition on Saturday

She will be joined by the likes of Birmingham-based radio presenter Richie Anderson as well as Will Mellor, Kym Marsh, Kaye Adams, Jayde Adams, Tyler West, Matt Goss, Ellie Taylor, Molly Rainford, Tony Adams MBE, Fleur East, Hamza Yassin, James Bye and Helen Skelton.

All say they are raring to go, if slightly daunted by the whole ordeal. They have been busy practising with their partners, whose identities will be revealed on Friday.

It is a particularly important moment for Ellie Simmonds, 27, who hopes to show fans they can achieve anything they want to.

Radio presenter Richie Anderson

Ellie, who has dwarfism, has admitted she has been upset by some of the ignorant and abusive messages that have circulated on social media since she was announced as a contestant.

Ahead of her Strictly debut, Ellie said: “I’ve had it already. Some people have said: ‘How’s the dwarf going to dance?’ It’s sad and it does get to you.

“I asked my professional partner if he was going to be all right with it because I’m small but he was like: ‘I want to dance with you, I want to try it out.’

“It’s scary. Yes, I’ll be self-conscious. I’m a woman anyway, I’m different. We all worry about our wobbly bits. I’m not going to be like any other celeb, with that partnership where you can hold each other. But from that one comment, there are so many other amazing comments.”

While it hasn’t yet been announced who will be dancing with who this series, it has been revealed that former Sunday League footballer and TV and radio personality Richie Anderson will be dancing with a male partner, following in the footsteps of John Whaite and Johannes Radebe who made history in 2021 as the first all-male couple on the show.

Richie, 34, who is on Radio 2 and has also appeared n BBC WM, said: “When they called me and offered it to me, they said we want you on the show, and it’s up to you whether you dance with a man or a woman – which I thought was amazing.

“I went home and I spoke to my other half, and October is our 10-year anniversary, and he said: ‘On our 10-year anniversary, you have to dance with a man’.

“I remember watching John and Johannes last year and Nicola and Katya the year before and I thought, when I was growing up as a teenager, figuring out what I am and what I’m not, I wish I would have seen that on prime time television.”

Loose Women’s Kaye Adams, 59, says she had “two lightbulb moments”that led her to agreeing to be on the show.

She said: “One was on holiday after two Aperol Spritz, and I thought: ‘What the hell?!’

“The other was standing in my kitchen and thinking: ‘If I’m here at the end of September watching this on telly, will I be thinking: Why did I turn that down?’

“And I thought: ‘Yeah, I will.’”

Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet of Crisps and Coronation Street’s Will Mellor also says he wanted to grab life by the horns and take on the Strictly challenge, and for a very heartwarming reason.

“Losing my dad has changed everything,” says the 46-year-old actor, whose father died in 2020.

“He was my hero and my best mate, and it just changes you, it really does. I would easily say no to stuff just because I’d be so worried about what everyone else would think, and then you realise all that’s nonsense when you lose someone like that.

“Just thought: I’ve got to say yes to more things and create memories – that’s what life’s about, get out of your comfort zone.

“And my mum, it’s one of her favourite shows, she’s had the worst few years ever so it’s nice to do something positive. She can’t wait.”

“I’ve been asked a few times,” says former Arsenal and England footballer Tony Adams, 55.

“I had a mental breakdown when I was 49 and working too hard in China, and I’ve just got time now.

“After my heart procedure – I nearly died when I was 49, my main artery was 99 per cent closed – and the stress of life. I just decided to take things a bit easier and get myself on a silly show.”

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