AJ Odudu on crutches as she watches Strictly final from side of ballroom

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  • AJ Odudu
    British television presenter

AJ Odudu could be seen on crutches as she watched Rose Ayling-Ellis and John Whaite compete for the glitterball in the Strictly Come Dancing final.

The TV presenter looked on from the side of the ballroom alongside partner Kai Widdrington after they pulled out of the final after Odudu suffered an ankle injury.

Host Tess Daly said: “Sadly AJ and Kai are not dancing tonight.

“AJ sustained an ankle injury early in the week and, despite treatment and rest, is unable to dance.”

Claudia Winkleman added: “I think we all agree that although AJ cannot compete tonight, she is, and always will be, an extraordinary Strictly finalist.”

Ayling-Ellis and Whaite will both perform three routines over the course of final, which started later than billed because Odudu’s absence will lead to a shorter show.

The programme had to been due to run for more than two hours but will now run at one hour and 50 minutes.

The first routine the finalists performed was chosen for them but the judges, who selected the performance they most wanted to see again.

The judges asked Ayling-Ellis and partner Giovanni Pernice to perform their quickstep to Love Is An Open Door from Frozen.

Judge Shirley Ballas praised the routine as “strictly magic” and “phenomenal”, adding: “You managed to pull everything together. You went out there and you smashed it.”

Craig Revel Horwood, who was absent when the duo first performed the ballroom dance, said: “It was great seeing it at home when I had Covid, but seeing the whole body is a completely different experience.”

They received a combined score of 39, but the result of the final will be determined entirely by public vote.

Afterwards, Pernice told Ayling-Ellis it has been “a dream” and a “privilege” to dance with her throughout the series.

The judges chose to see Whaite and partner Johannes Radebe’s rumba to Sting’s Shape Of My Heart again as their first routine.

Judge Anton Du Beke said he was “delighted” the panel chose the dance and said it was the “best rumba I’ve ever seen on Strictly Come Dancing”.

Motsi Mabuse added: “I loved it.

“This was an appreciation of time and touch and breath, and that is what we want in the rumba.”

Ballas continued: “I hope I get to dance a rumba with you one day John.”

They received a combined score of 39.

Afterwards Radebe told Whaite: “Thank you for coming on this series and thank you for saying yes.

“You and me know visibility is everything and I applaud you.”

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