She was a pioneer as the BBC’s first regular woman newsreader, and Angela Rippon is breaking new ground again by becoming the oldest contestant to take part in Strictly Come Dancing.
The 78-year-old overcame a “disaster” of a final rehearsal at the studios in Elstree on Friday to step out with professional partner Kai Widdrington, wearing a silver sequined dress.
In doing so she continued a proud, if sometimes shaky, tradition of TV news journalists competing for the Glitter Ball trophy, after John Sergeant’s unlikely run of success in the 2008 series.
Rippon was joined by fellow contestant Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the longtime Channel 4 presenter, who appeared alongside Lauren Oakley.
In a video ahead of the opening night, she said she and her partner had been given just three chances to rehearse on set and “I have to say, the first one is a bit of a disaster”, adding: “I’m going to be wearing a groove in the dining floor as I go over the routine on my own again and again.”
Describing both excitement and “first night terrors”, she said: “The live programme will be what it will be.”
Guru-Murthy has said he is “slightly confused” to find himself taking part and “worried about my general decrepitude”.
Former tennis star Annabel Croft was another to take to the floor, alongside Johannes Radebe.
The show was screened in the shadow of professional dancer Amy Dowden’s June announcement that she had undergone surgery for breast cancer and would be unable to partner a celebrity this year.
The 33-year-old sent a message of support to the BBC show team ahead of the live programme saying: “I know it’s going to be amazing.”
Previously, Dowden shared a video of her loved ones helping her shave her head as she revealed she had crossed the halfway point in her chemotherapy treatment.
She said this is the “hardest step so far” as she explained that she tried to save her hair as she felt like “so much” had been taken away from her that made her feel like herself.
The dancer added: “I’ve not been able to take control of this journey so far, but as you can see with some of my loved ones I took the courage and control.
“It’s going to take some time to get use to and learn to love and embrace but, I’m now focusing-not on the hair I’m losing but the hair I’m going to get back and the happy dancing, tea lover who talks way to fast whilst rolling every r who is still there inside with or without hair!”