‘I was like an octopus’ - Strictly’s Annabel Croft reflects on swapping sports for dancing

Virgin Radio

11 Dec 2023, 12:06

(L-R) Strictly Come Dancing logo, Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe

Credit: BBC

Strictly Come Dancing’s latest eliminated dancer, Annabel Croft, has revealed how her tennis career skills helped her journey to the ballroom floor. 

Annabel went head-to-head with Bobby Brazier in the dreaded dance-off last night (10th December) but the judges voted to save the EastEnders actor and pro-partner Dianne Buswell.

Prior to her Strictly stint, Annabel was a professional tennis player, becoming one of the world’s top 25 players before the age of 21. 

After she retired, she went into TV coverage of the likes of Wimbledon for Sky Sports and Eurosports, and so as a veteran sports star, it would be easy to think Annabel would have an edge over her fellow star dancers, but in an exclusive chat with virignradio.co.uk, sometimes the opposite would be true. 

While chatting to us earlier in the competition, we asked the TV host how she found training while also being a tennis pro, and Annabel admitted there were plenty of similarities, but also huge differences too. 

She explained: “In tennis, there's technicalities on how you hit a forehand and how your wrist is in those shots, when you're following through or the smoothness of the shot or the feel of the shot and the ball and everything. The list is endless, but I’ve realised the list never ends in dancing.”

“There’s just so many technical aspects to trying to get it right. Johannes is such a natural dancer, but I know how hard he must have worked now on the technical aspect when he was very young to be able to then free up to dance. I think that's the thing. It's like layers.”

Annabel also described her shock at the challenge overall, but none more than having to change dance moves with little to no time. 

She continued: “It's quite funny, Johannes will try to add an arm lift and suddenly, I'm like an octopus and the feet just suddenly start doing their own thing. What on earth is going on down there? Just because he added an arm? It's really weird.”

Unfortunately for Annabel, her Strictly journey has now come to an end, and the sporting star described her time on the show as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

She added to virginradio.co.uk: “I pinch myself every single morning when I get out of bed. I think, what more could I want to do than go to meet Johannes and start dancing? I mean, I can't think of too many things better in life to do than that right now. I'll never get this opportunity ever again. It's literally an unbelievable experience.”

Annabel’s departure means that Bobby and Dianne, Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin and Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola are officially the Strictly Come Dancing 2023 finalists, and they’ll go head-to-head during the live final next Saturday (16th December). 

Strictly Come Dancing: The Final will air live on Saturday 16th December at 7.00pm, on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.