23 September 2017Jonnie Peacock says Strictly is scarier than the Paralympics - but he's more worried what his missus thinks than Craig
And the sprinter, who won gold at the 2012 London Games and Rio in 2016, also said he’s more scared of his girlfriend’s critiques than acid-tongued Craig Revel Horwood.
Jonnie, who took to the Strictly stage for the first time tonight, said: “Doing this is scarier than the Paralympics.
“We’re just going to go out there and have fun but it’s definitely a lot more nerve-wracking. I’m trying my best not to look like a bumbling idiot on the dance floor.”
And it wasn’t just the judges he was keen to impress – girlfriend Sally Brown was also casting her critical eye over his performance.
Jonnie, 24, admitted: “My girlfriend will be the hardest critic to please, even harder than Craig.
“She’ll bring me back down to earth. She’ll go ‘What the hell were you doing there?’
Jonnie and Sally - a fellow Paralympic runner - have been dating for four years. But he insists there will be no chance of their relationship succumbing to the Strictly curse.
“My girlfriend trusts me. I’m very happy with her,” he added.
The couple have been enjoying dinners with dance partner Oti Mobuse and her husband.
“We’ve all gone out for dinner three times,” Jonnie revealed. “We’re all get on very well.”
Jonnie is the first disabled celeb to appear on Strictly.
His right leg was amputated below the knee when he contracted meningitis at five years old.
Now he plans to get into the Strictly spirit by jazzing up his prosthetic leg. He laughed: “If we make it to week three maybe I’ll glitter my prosthetic up. Oti wants me to do it.”
The Cambridge-born runner also hopes to smash stigmas with his performance.
“People looking at this wouldn’t necessarily think that an amputee could dance,” he said.
“They’re not going to be able to lift, to move very well. I came out of my medical and the doctor goes ‘How are you with lifts? Are you stable on two feet?’
“I do athletics, I do sprinting, I box step up where I single left step up on to a box with 240kilos on my back so I’ll probably be OK. And the doctor said ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could that.’ So it’s showing people what you can do.
“Very quickly you’ll find out it’s not the leg letting me down, it’s my dancing ability!”
Telling how he was bullied as a child for his disability, he hopes to inspire others to challenge perceptions. “When I was younger, I wanted to hide it. I didn’t want to be seen as different.
“What I want people to get from the show is that I’m not different.
“It will be interesting to see how the judges judge me. They might say ‘You didn’t point your toe enough on that.’ Sorry, I can’t really do much. Hopefully there will be people at home who watch it and take away something. People go through dark times and seeing somebody do something can lift them up.
“That’s a massive bonus to doing this. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh you’ve got a disability it must be so hard.’
“But every single person has problems of their own. Some disabled people come up to bigger problems but it’s all relative to their life. It’s about pushing past that and being positive.”
Meanwhile host Claudia Winkleman said she had no idea how she ended up with one of TV’s top presenting gigs. She admitted: “I don’t know how this happened. I’ve been so lucky and I think it’s a construct that my parents have created to make me feel good.
“I think they have done it to build me up like, ‘This is real. She believes it’.
“I can’t find a bad thing to say about it. I like the fact I can get all excited in sequin – for the time being as I will be fired next week as we all know.” But Claudia admits bosses have taken some privileges away from her – she’s not allowed to know the names of contestants in advance.
She said: “When I did It Takes Two, they were like ‘Claudia we are going to tell you the names, it is quite serious. Don’t tell anyone’. I said, ‘Of course, I’m so good at secrets. You can rely on me’. I got in the lift with this young cool guy and he asked, ‘Are you doing the sister show for Strictly? Who is doing it?’
“And I told him the whole list. They went to the producers and said ‘She is really leaky.. on so many levels. They won’t tell me the winner until Tess has said the name.”