Annabel Croft says Strictly has ‘given me a reason’ following death of husband

Annabel Croft has shared that competing on Strictly Come Dancing has given her a “reason” to “get up in the morning” following the death of her husband earlier this year.

A former tennis player and TV presenter, Croft is competing on the BBC’s annual dance competition with fan-favourite South African pro Johannes Radebe. Initially, Croft signed up for the show in hope of “finding some joy” in the wake of the death of her husband Mel Coleman to stomach cancer in May.

On Saturday (4 November), Croft will perform her Couple’s Choice routine to “Wings” by Birdy. Before Couple’s Choice routines, the celebrities are given the chance to explore an issue or subject near to their heart, meaning Coleman’s death will likely be the inspiration for the routine.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain on Friday (3 November), Croft, 57, explained that Strictly had been a lifeline during “such an incredibly dark” period of her life.

“Every time I get to go to the studio, I am so grateful,” she said. “It’s come at such an incredibly dark time in my life. I don’t where I would be without it.

“I always said that I never really knew grief. I had no concept of it. It’s given me a reason to be able to get up in the morning and have purpose rather than just sobbing at home, which does still happen sometimes.”

Croft met her husband Coleman, an investment banker and professional yachtsman, when she was considering retiring from tennis. At the time, Croft was filming a BBC show about yacht racing with Eamonn Holmes and Seventies musician Peter Skellern. Coleman had just returned from Australia after the Americas Cup and was one of the yachtsmen.

Croft and Coleman, pictured in 2012 (PA)
Croft and Coleman, pictured in 2012 (PA)

Croft would go on to quit tennis aged 21, with she and Coleman marrying six years after they met. They have three adult children together: Amber, Lily Rose, and Charlie. During lockdown, the couple – who were married for 30 years – started a tennis academy together in Croft’s name, and spent the Covid-19 lockdowns converting an old DPD van into a mobile home.

In May 2023, Croft shared the sad news that Coleman had died aged 60, just 16 weeks after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

It was the death of her husband, who was a huge fan of the show, that inspired Croft to take part in Strictly Come Dancing.

Radebe and Croft will dance again this Saturday (BBC/Guy Levy)
Radebe and Croft will dance again this Saturday (BBC/Guy Levy)

“He used to cry watching it,” she recalled when it was announced that she was joining the cast of 2023. “He used to call me over if I was cooking, and he was crying watching it. So, I hope he’s watching up there.”

Croft isn’t the only celebrity dancing their Couple’s Choice on Saturday, as newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy and partner Lauren Oakley will also be dancing theirs to Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”.

Last week’s leaderboard topper Ellie Leach is dancing an American Smooth, while Layton Williams is performing a Jive and Bobby Brazier is dancing an Argentine Tango. Angela Rippon is doing a Waltz, with Angela Scanlon giving the Samba a go. Nigel Harman is doing the traditional Tango, with Adam Thomas – who last week found himself in the dance off – dancing the Rumba.

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday 4 November at 7.05pm on BBC One.