Strictly Come Dancing favoritism row Dan Walker opens up on friendship with Shirley Ballas
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Strictly Come Dancing returned for the 19th series on Saturday night and was full of glitter and glamour. BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker was one of the 19 celebrities to take on the challenge and dance it out for a chance to win the Glitter Ball. In an exclusive interview, Dan revealed he and Shirley Ballas had been friends for years.
The pair first struck up a bond with one another in 2019 when they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania together to raise money for Comic Relief.
Dan and Shirley have stayed close ever since, with him telling the Daily Star: “We had some great conversations on that trip.
“I really got to know her quite well; I’m looking forward to seeing her. We’ve had a few Kilimanjaro reunions, and I think she’s great and incredibly talented, and she knows what she is talking about.”
However, the revelation of his relationship with Shirley could land Dan up in hot water, inciting a favouritism row.
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The pair’s close relationship could lead to speculation that he would get extra marks from Shirley, 61, on the BBC dance contest.
Dan has already put the notion to bed and said: “On one particular occasion, Shirley was feeling a bit down and a bit upset.
“So, I nicked one of the blankets we were using to keep warm at night, and I did a bit of impromptu Paso Doble, and she laughed her head off, which I’m not sure is the best thing.
“I questioned whether I would’ve got a 10 from Len, but she continued to laugh, so I’m not sure the technique was great, but it had the desired effect of making her laugh,” he explained.
On Saturday night Dan was paired with former playboy model Nadiya Bychkova, 32, with bookies tipping them to sail through the early weeks of this year’s series.
Before the show kicked off on Saturday, Dan had a minor setback when he was taken to hospital after bashing his head on a glass door.
Taking to Instagram on Thursday, he revealed that he has “done something completely stupid”, which left him with a nasty bump on his forehead.
Alongside a selfie that showed his bruised head, he wrote: “I left my wallet in the taxi as I checked into a hotel.
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“I ran back out to chase the driver and ran straight into a giant glass door which I thought was open, full deck on the floor, gasps in the restaurant…lump on the head.”
On Saturday evening, Dan praised his dance partner, expressing how grateful he was that she stayed with him at A&E when he went to hospital.
Before Nadiya was announced as his partner, Dan wrote on Instagram: “Even though I’m not allowed to tell you who my Strictly pro is…
“I can tell you that she waited for hours in the car park to make sure I was ok, whatever happens on the telly, she has a friend for life.”
Once the cat was out of the bag that Nadiya was his partner, Dan penned: “Thanks for all the lovely messages about #Strictly.
“I am really enjoying it so far, for all those asking if I can actually dance, I don’t know, I guess we’ll all find out next week!”
Nadiya has been a pro on Strictly since 2017, partnering up with EastEnders actor Davood Ghadami in her first year.
In 2018, she partnered with Blue singer Lee Ryan and England goalkeeper David James the following year.
Strictly Come Dancing returns Saturday at 7pm on BBC One.
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