Olympic gymnast and Strictly star Claudia Fragapane has revealed she goes “completely silent” minutes before taking to the dance floor, terrifying her professional partner AJ Pritchard
Olympic gymnast Claudia Fragapane, 18 – who wowed viewers and judges last week with an impressive Charleston that was awarded 36 points – said she enters “scary mode” ahead of performing on the live shows, ignoring everyone in order to focus, including professional dancer AJ Pritchard.
AJ, 21, who is in his first series as a professional dancer on the show, said Claudia almost gave him a “heart attack” ahead of their first performance.
“On the live show she can sometimes go completely silent before 10 minutes before. The first week with the cha cha she went silent. I was like ‘this can’t happen, we’ve got to change this’.
“I was like ‘she’s forgotten the routine, it’s all going to go wrong, she’s so nervous she’s not going to be able to walk’.
“She was in the zone, she told me. But I got really worried,” added AJ.
“I was in my focus mind,” Claudia explained, adding: “He kept asking me if I was all right and I was like ‘yes yes yes, I’m fine just stop.’
“Something just takes over me and I just go into this scary mode. I go silent. Obviously the first live show was so scary.”
Claudia also reveaed she had bumped into fellow Strictly competitors long-jumper Greg Rutherford and BBC sports presenter Ore Oduba during the Rio Olympics but none of them let slip that they were doing the show.
“He [Greg] knew he was doing Strictly before Rio, I knew I was doing Strictly before Rio … when it came out I was like ‘Greg you’re sneaky’ and he was like ‘you’re sneaky as well’. It was quite funny. All three of us passed each other at the Olympics and stuff and all of us knew that we were doing Strictly.”
Claudia said her fellow Team GB gymnasts had been offering their support during the Strictly contest.
“I get a lot of good luck messages and they always tweet me saying well done and use the quote ‘slay’ which is quite nice.”
Asked what he did away from the show AJ, who reached the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2013, said his life was currently “Strictly every single day”.
“I’m a very focused person. It’s pretty much Strictly 100 per cent. My hobbies at the moment are just watching movies on my iPad. I like doing extreme sports like snowboarding and quad biking. But that’s all on hold because obviously I don’t want to break my leg right now.”
The dancer, who has won a legion of fans on social media, revealed he was single, adding: “There’s not really much more to say. I think I got 22,000 followers on Instagram within just starting Strictly and I think 20,000 of them are all girls. Not a bad thing.”
The youngest pair in the competition, who were warned by head judge Len Goodman in week one about overusing gymnastics, are set to dance a foxtrot this week to Carly Rae Jepsen’s I Really Like You.
“There will be no real tricks in this week’s dance,” says AJ, adding they were saving Claudia’s gymnastics for the faster dances when they will do “as many as possible”.
“When the dance lets us then we’re just going to go crazy. We’ve got quite an upbeat song for a foxtrot, so it’s a bit more High School Musical running around.”
Saturday night’s show will be the first since singer Will Young’s surprise exit which Claudia and AJ called a “shock”.
Bookies’ favourite to win the contest Danny Mac will perform a quickstep to Fred Astaire’s I Won’t Dance during week four, while former shadow chancellor Ed Balls will hope to entertain fans with a paso doble to Holding Out For A Hero.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC1 tonight at 6.30pm.