Strictly’s Ellie Simmonds admits ‘genuine fears’ over height difference with Nikita

Strictly star Ellie Simmonds has admitted it took some convincing for her to take part in the show after having ‘genuine fears’ over the inevitable height difference.

The 4ft Paralympic swimmer said her anxieties were eased when she was partnered with 24-year-old Ukrainian dance pro Nikita Kuzmin and now feels confident they can make it work.

Speaking exclusively to OK!, Ellie said: “I met with the Strictly team and made sure that I was going to be comfortable because of the height difference.

"It was definitely something I thought about a lot before saying yes. Strictly have been amazing and have been helping me so much, walking me around the studio just to make sure I can reach everything and see if I need extra steps.

“Yes, I’m nervous about what it’s going to be like. Nikita and I were chatting about it yesterday and we’re going to just see.

“It might look different, and my partner’s going to be tall and we’re probably not going to be able to hold the same poses, but I’m sure it’s going to work.”

Ellie, who is 4ft, has achondroplasia, a rare genetic condition which causes a type of dwarfism.

A Paralympic star since making her swimming debut aged 13 when she won double gold in Beijing, by the time London came calling four years later, Ellie, 27, was the poster girl of the Games, winning another two gold medals on home turf.

She became the youngest recipient of an MBE, elevated to an OBE in 2013, before retiring as a five-time Paralympic champion after the Tokyo 2020 Games with 10 world records.

She added: “When I step out into the pool it’s just me. Yes, I know there’s a crowd watching but I’ve got water so I can’t hear and I’m not aware of the faces. I think that on the first live show I’m going to be very nervous.

“It shows if I can do it – and I’ve seen the likes ofRose[Ayling-Ellis] who’s changing the world of disability and inclusivity – then people watching at home can adapt it to them, too.”

Ellie will be the seventh disabled celebrity to take part in the show and praises Strictly’s inclusivity after struggling to find representation she could relate to on TV while growing up.

She said: “It’s very important. Strictly is a prime-time show and come September, in the lead up to Christmas, everyone watches it, so it’s so important they are inclusive. When I was a kid I don’t remember seeing anyone with a disability on TV.”

Strictly is on Saturdays on BBC One and iPlayer


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