Daring lifts with Mollie almost gave me a heart attack, jokes Strictly’s AJ

By Francesca Gosling, Press Association

Strictly Come Dancing professional AJ Pritchard has joked how he “almost had a heart attack” while performing a series of ambitious lifts with partner Mollie King.

Viewers saw the 22-year-old lift The Saturdays singer over his head and spin her in the air as they danced the salsa to Enrique Iglesias track Subeme La Radio.

While the couple scored a healthy 27 points from the judges for their efforts, Pritchard confessed to the Press Association: “The lifts did give me a heart attack.

“I didn’t tell (King) before we walked on, but I was nervous.

“In the dress run it went wrong, in the band call it went wrong…to be honest, in all the practices we did at the Elstree studio it went wrong, other than the live show.

“But the lifts went fantastic, she was fantastic, I’m so happy for her. She went out there with confidence, and confidence is sexy.

“From day one, just learning how to walk, to trusting me to put her above my head was fantastic for me.”

Viewers can look forward to the couple performing a slow dance back in this week’s show, Pritchard said.

“She feels safe in my hold so I’m going to float her around the room and it’s going to be a fantastic love story,” he said.

Commenting on the chemistry between the pair since they first began training, he continued: “It does help. When you are training 10-12 hours a day, having that chemistry makes it so easy and so much fun.

“We are with our team laughing our heads off all day long, which is the best way.”

Pritchard was in the audience to watch former Strictly co-star Natalie Lowe take centre stage in 1950s-inspired dance extravaganza Rip It Up at London’s Richmond Theatre on Sunday night.

He was joined by fellow show professional Janette Manrara, who once again topped the leaderboard this weekend with her partner, JLS star Aston Merrygold.

Aston Merrygold, Janette Manrara (BBC/Ray Burmiston/PA)

Dismissing critics who have claimed Merrygold’s pop background gives him an unfair advantage in the competition, she said: “A lot of people think he is trained but he’s not, he is completely self-taught.

“All he has done is boy band stuff that he has learnt off of YouTube, so to see him do so well in Latin and ballroom is quite spectacular. I take my hat off to him and his natural ability to just pick up information as well as he has.

“Everybody has a weakness and it is very hard to get rid of his hip-hop hunchback vibe.”

She continued: “We all take our hats off to all the celebrities that take part in Strictly because it is so exposing. You have cameras on you constantly and they are all out of their comfort zones with millions of people watching.

“Hats off to all of them for being brave enough to do it – and thank you.”

Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One at 6.35pm on Saturday, following the departure of third couple Charlotte Hawkins and Brendan Cole this weekend.

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