‘After four months of blood, sweat, tears and fleckerls, Ore Oduba is the deserving winner of Strictly 2016’ – My article for the Sunday Telegraph, 18 December 2016

After four months of blood, sweat, tears and fleckerls, Ore Oduba walked away the winner of the Strictly Come Dancing glitterball.

On a night when any one of the finalists could have taken the trophy, the sports commentator and rookie dancer kept his nerve and, with his dance partner Joanne Clifton, produced three stunning routines, dropping just one point, to see off the challenges of Louise Redknapp and Danny Mac.

The result could have gone any way, so high was the standard. Backstage, before the competition started it was tense. Nobody could call who was going to win it because all three finalists were popular in their own ways. Danny had gone into the final as the bookies’ favourite – he’d started better than everyone else and also improved hugely through hard graft.

Louise had clearly struck a chord with lots of people around the country, and for me she was the favourite going into the final. From the beginning she did well in the public vote and one of the consequences of that was that she was never in the dance off.

Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba dancing to Singin in the Rain during the Strictly Come Dancing live final

Ore was the one who, if we’re talking in terms of pure performance, improved the most because he’d never danced before. So, if this was a show about the novice improving, then that was Ore’s calling card, and, indeed, on the night chief judge Len Goodman did describe him as “the spirit of Strictly Come Dancing”.

Danny’s samba was brilliant, and I thought Louise’s Argentine tango was wonderful, but there’s no doubt that Ore stormed it on the night. His showdance was spectacular as were his jive and American smooth.

It was an evening in which, from the beginning, Ore made his case and he made it so compellingly over the three dances that in the end it was overwhelming and changed lots of people’s minds at home.

Even though Danny showed his human side by making a mistake in the first dance, then totally slammed his second and third, and even though Louise had had lots of support for weeks and weeks, for both of them, in the end, it wasn’t enough to stop the Ore juggernaut.

And it really was a juggernaut because I don’t think he went into the competition in the lead. He came out the winner because he delivered on the night. It took nerves of steel and he absolutely deserved to win.

The final of Strictly Come Dancing is the one week where it’s not really about the judges and they know that. Last night was all about the public vote and the public voted for Ore because they saw the quality and decided to back it.

In every way it proved an emotional evening with Ore’s tears at the end and a touching tribute, danced by the professionals, to Len Goodman, retiring from the programme after 12 years as chief judge.

For those of us who had been knocked out, it was also a chance to don our spangly dance costumes for one final group dance. I’d had an inkling that I might be asked to reprise Gangnam Style, and so it turned out, this time with a big group of celebrities and dancers joining me riding the pony and flinging the lasso. Well, someone had to do it.

The Strictly class of 2016 group dance for the Grand Final
The Strictly class of 2016 group dance for the Grand Final CREDIT: BBC

The uproarious Gangnam Style salsa dance was undoubtedly the public’s favourite of all my dances in the series. But for me the highlights were my charleston and the group sequences in Blackpool. I also loved the Laurel and Hardy quickstep where I think I took the judges by surprise. I couldn’t have had a better dance partner than the wonderful Katya Jones.

My lowpoint was dancing the paso doble. Being a knight and saving a princess from a dragon and then trying to become a matador in one minute and thirty seconds was a stretch too far.

An hour before going on I rang my wife Yvette and said, “I don’t know what character to play.” She said, “I thought you were going to be Adam Ant from Prince Charming,” but that wasn’t working. And then she said, “Be the dad in The Incredibles.” Well, unfortunately, my paso doble was incredible but not in the way she meant.

Jeremy Vine said that being on Strictly was an unmissable experience, and he’s right. It transcends divides and unites the country in a very positive way. You don’t normally get the chance to do that, especially if you are a politician.

My original article can be found here.

Posted December 19th, 2016 by Ed