Strictly Come Dancing 2022, The Final: Hamza Yassin wins Series 20
In an extraordinarily close final, it was early favourite Hamza Yassin who ultimately won over the public and lifted that famous glitterball trophy, along with partner Jowita Przystal. Despite cruising through most of the competition, Yassin actually struggled in his showdance: he succumbed to nerves and made some rare errors.
It seemed entirely possible that one of the other Strictly finalists might overtake him: fellow celebrities Fleur East and Molly Rainford put in fearless, and technically flawless, performances, while Helen Skelton definitely had the “moment” of the night when she nailed her revenge Fosse number.
But Yassin has been a joy to watch throughout series 20, cementing his champion-in-waiting status early on with a phenomenal salsa, and showing great versatility: he was just at home in smooth ballroom, hip-swivelling Latin or, for his reprised Couple’s Choice number, Afrobeat, and his huge lifts were simply unparalleled.
Best of all was the adorable partnership he had with new pro Przystal – who likewise triumphed on fellow BBC competition The Greatest Dancer, mentored by Oti Mabuse. Now, Mabuse’s protégée has followed in her footsteps and won Strictly too.
Hamza Yassin becomes the 2022 Strictly champion
A clearly emotional, but still articulate, Yassin paid tribute to his partner Pryzstal, who managed the impressive feat of winning Strictly with her first ever partner. “You are an angel disguised as a human being,” he said, and, thanking viewers for voting for him, added: “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Yassin went on to quote the wisdom of American actor and choreographer André De Shields. “One: surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you come in. Two: the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next so keep climbing. And three: slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.”
Przystal quipped that Yassin had won even though he came into the competition with no dancing experience and pigeon toes. She also thanked the production for giving her the chance to be part of the show. They were clearly a popular choice in the room, cheered on by their fellow competitors and the judges, and no one can begrudge them the win after giving us so many wonderful routines this year.
It wasn’t a dead cert after a rocky final. Yassin actually finished bottom of the leaderboard after making mistakes in his nervy and slightly underwhelming showdance – although luckily for him, the judges’ scores didn't count in the final, only viewer votes. And, in a final teeming with Couple’s Choice numbers, the actual showdances didn’t have nearly as much impact: it’s hard to get excited about a no-rules freestyle when we’ve already had so many of them.
How close did Helen Skelton come?
Unarguably, the most engrossing “journey” this year belonged Skelton. She entered Strictly visibly scared and self-conscious, despite having clear potential as a dancer, and struggled initially to either trust partner Gorka Marquez or to give herself over to the performance. The recent challenges in her personal life surely contributed to some of that. But by the final, she looked like a different woman – encapsulated in the last dance of the night, her triumphant, perfect-scoring Cabaret number that brought the house down.
Skelton likely got exactly what she needed from Strictly, so won’t be feeling too hard done by. But Marquez, who has now made three finals (the previous ones with Maisie Smith and Alexandra Burke) is probably more miffed. He did a superb job with Skelton, offering emotional support as well as dance instruction, and might well have thought they’d nicked it right at the end.
Did you agree with the final decision? Relive all the action with our dance talking points!
Hamza and Jowita are your #Strictly 2022 champions! 🥳@HamzaYassin3 pic.twitter.com/XIHS70xoeE
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) December 17, 2022
Hamza Yassin’s salsa lifts get even better
What a fantastic way to kick off the final. This Week 4 salsa was the dance which announced Yassin as an absolute force in the competition – and Jowita Przystal as a gravity-defying dynamo who would produce some of the most hair-raising lifts ever seen on Strictly. But most importantly, and even more so in this fab-u-lous encore, through all the twisting armography, side-by-side sections, and of course those mega lifts, the performance was utterly seamless. And utterly joyful.
Shirley Ballas said the lifts were even higher, and praised the intimacy between them. Anton Du Beke loved the freedom of it. Craig Revel Horwood wanted more control in Yassin’s free arm (boo) but it was smooth as silk. Motsi Mabuse said it was like watching music in Yassin’s body. A score of 39 (again).
Molly Rainford shows ballroom improvement
Yikes, can we even remember all the way back to Week 2, when Rainford first tackled the quickstep? Liz Truss was still Prime Minister, for god’s sake. I felt there was too much going on in this routine at the time, particularly the set dressing/props overload (phone box, bench, umbrellas etc.), plus the Charleston breaks – and the same again here. Frustratingly, it just wasn’t the best showcase for Rainford. But the glimmers of quickstep were light, frothy and extremely accomplished, and her delivery was definitely more polished.
Du Beke (channelling Len Goodman even more than usual) said it was “as smooth as a Werther’s Original”. Revel Horwood noted the improvement in her frame. Mabuse called it quality. Ballas noted a tiny bit of gapping, but otherwise superb. A score of 39 (up from 34).
Fleur East’s samba gets a hot hot hot perfect score
This Week 8 samba was East’s breakthrough moment of channelling her mighty power into a slickly controlled Latin number with pristine technique, rather than going wild – and it was so exciting to see that click into place. Once again, we got wonderful rhythmic movement, body isolations and a vibrant performance, all within a high-level competitive Latin framework. The only negative was East’s ghastly Christmas tree decoration frock, otherwise this was a sizzling sensation.
Craig Revel drawled his disappointment at not finding anything wrong with it. Mabuse dared to compare it with Danny Mac’s all-time-great samba (danced with her sister Oti!). Ballas said she made difficult steps look easy and sold it with her soul. Du Beke called it the best samba ever on Strictly. A perfect score of 40 (up from 39).
Helen Skelton brings serious attitude to her jive
Skelton has never been entirely comfortable with either flamboyant sexiness or Disney-princess romance in her performances. But give her a breezy, jazzy, stylised, deceptively tricky number like this Week 7 jive to Janelle Monáe and she’ll deliver it with total insouciance. Happily, she didn’t drop her hat this time round, and the whole performance was even slicker and more confident. I particularly loved Skelton’s little James Bond-esque tie adjustment. Just so cool.
Mabuse was left very happy. Ballas said there were no missteps and praised the cheeky attitude. Du Beke enjoyed the different styles of jive, all smoothly delivered. Revel Horwood said she fixed the mistakes, but wanted a bit more retraction. A score of 39 (up from 37).
Hamza Yassin goes classic – and goes wrong
Weirdly, with so many Couple’s Choice routines in the final, this first showdance to Let’s Face The Music and Dance was actually a more “pure ballroom”, Fred n Ginger number – and hurrah for that, in theory. Not to say that there weren’t also some stonking great lifts alongside the foxtrot, including Pryzstal launching herself off a bench into his arms. Unfortunately, a jittery Yassin went stumbled right at the start, and the number as a whole just didn’t have enough impact.
Ballas noted some panic and mistakes, but he’s a beautiful dancer. Du Beke praised Yassin’s lifts – particularly the effortless entries and dismounts. Revel Horwood found it underwhelming, but it was classy. Mabuse said the mistakes actually made Yassin more human, and he brings us joy. A disappointing 34. Poor, sweet Yassin was left in tears.
Molly Rainford takes an eye-popping risk
And now for something completely different! Rainford opened her Prince-scored showdance lounging on a giant pair of bright-red lips, wearing a pleather/lace catsuit and red rubber gloves (her partner in matching attire; well, that Christmas dinner washing-up won't do itself). Strutting, gyrating, cane-ography and sharp pop video-style dancing showed a very different side of Rainford – and a fun one. She was unlikely to win anyway, so why not have a blast?
Du Beke was slightly bewildered but enjoyed the attitude. Revel Horwood wanted more attack in the pop-commercial moves, but loved the concept. Mabuse said she’s matured in the competition and dared herself. Ballas noted they went slightly out of sync. Two 10s for a score of 37.
Fleur East brings fiery passion
Mixing Argentine tango, rumba and paso doble, this showdance (set to Find Me by Sigma and Birdy) was a great decision for the ever-committed East and Vito Coppola. Although it felt jarring to lead into a smouldering number with East talking about her late father. It was also slightly frantic in execution, and Coppola rather stole the show with his sky-high hitch-kick layout, but the combination of deeply felt partnering and spine-tingling power was thrilling – plus bonus pyrotechnics. East really owned the floor.
Revel Horwood said it was striking and bold (though he too praised Coppola). Mabuse thought it showcased East’s power – and no matter what happens, she is a queen. Ballas loved the passionate moments. Du Beke praised their complete performance. “You are a very, very good dancer.” Three 10s for 39.
Helen Skelton shines in a dance of celebration
In training, a tearful Skelton thanked partner Gorka Marquez for having faith in her that she didn’t have herself – a lovely intro to a showdance (set to Emeli Sandé’s Shine) that really expressed the exhilaration of dancing together. Dressed in a shiny silver gown, Skelton flew up into the lifts (but was too timid on the way down) and reprised their excellent quickstep. It was genuinely touching, and really made the point that this experience has been about so much more than dancing to Skelton – and to many people watching.
Mabuse said they picked the perfect song: Skelton shone. Ballas thought it said “I have set myself free.” Creative and lovely lifts, but small errors on dismounts. Du Beke loved the celebratory feeling of it. Revel Horwood agreed on the dismounts, but praised the pair’s teamwork. Two 10s for 37 (with a rather harsh 8 from Revel Horwood).
Hamza Yassin makes the judges cry
Yassin’s Week 8 Couple’s Choice was definitely “a moment” for bringing African representation to the ballroom – and bringing judge Motsi Mabuse to tears. It was great to see Yassin choose to reprise it in the final: it clearly meant a huge amount to him, and he really bounced back strongly from the disappointment of making mistakes in their showdance. It was gloriously expressive and another great showcase for his amazing partnership with Przystal.
A weepy Ballas called him a true competitor. Du Beke, also getting choked up, compared Yassin with the sun coming out. Revel Horwood: “You’re everything I’m not, darling. You spread joy to the world.” Mabuse joked that her goal was not to cry in the final, but he broke her. She noted that this song joined the world in a difficult moment: he had done the same here. A perfect 40 (up from 38).
Molly Rainford delivers a steamy rumba
It’s been irritating to see Strictly so often infantilising Rainford this year; she’s 22, not 14. But whenever they’ve allowed to her dance like an actual woman, the results have been electrifying – as in this gorgeously sensual Week 8 rumba. Yes, it was all slightly OTT, what with the dry ice, Whitney warbling and Carlos Gu’s chest-baring (basically the dance version of a romance novel), but the real impact came from Rainford: using the floor so brilliantly to power her leg and hip action, her expressive arms and lovely supple back bends. WOW.
Du Beke loved the maturity. Revel Horwood agreed: wonderful storytelling and control. Mabuse said it was class – she’s going to be a superstar. Ballas said that Rainford fully deserved her place in the final. Three 10s for 39 (up from 37).
Fleur East brings back the Blackpool magic
East scored the series’ first (and, pre-final, only) perfect 40 with this explosive Destiny’s Child-themed Couple’s Choice number at Blackpool. Packed with bootylicious swagger and hard-hitting hip-hop, it absolutely did Beyoncé (and the other ones) proud. Honestly, it didn’t have quite the same hysterical impact in the smaller studio without the backing dancers and massive audience, but it was unquestionably another winner from East – who did NOT mess around in this final.
Revel Horwood was happily reminded of Blackpool: it was phenomenal. Mabuse noted even Revel Horwood was dancing along. Ballas called it pure magic, praising Coppola too (it was lovely to see her give credit to all the professionals during this final show). Du Beke wished he had a 12 paddle. God knows he’s used his 10 enough… Another perfect 40.
Helen Skelton steals the show
An iconic routine from the very first step. We never want to say farewell to Helen and Gorka's Couple's Choice! #Strictly@HelenSkelton @gorkamarquez1 pic.twitter.com/z1qPjLuWUW
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) December 17, 2022
While Skelton has been very diplomatic about not discussing her personal life directly during the series, the subtext of this Fosse kiss-off to her ex (her Cabaret Couple’s Choice number from Musicals Week) was positively screaming. Her “You’re better without me” to the camera? Iconic. Let anyone who has ever been betrayed, or lost their self-belief, be granted a moment of triumph like this. Again we lost the backing dancers – which did reshape the number, but actually here I didn’t mind it because we got more of a chance to see Skelton completely in control. And the audience rightly went NUTS.
Mabuse praised her for closing the show – amazing. Ballas loved the message the number sends. They’re superstars. Du Beke noted the reaction in the room: it’s what performers live for. Craig Revel: “That is a dance that should win a final. Incredible!” A perfect 40 (up from 39) – quite right!