Retired Northern Ireland jockey Richard Dunwoody has spoken of his disappointment at being the first of his group to be voted off Strictly Come Dancing.
The three times Champion Jockey said he had tried his best to learn to dance — but admitted it had been a “massive challenge”.
And he also had words of support for under-fire judge Alesha Dixon, who caused controversy when she replaced Arlene Phillips.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Dunwoody said that while he was sad to be leaving he was also relieved to be returning to normality.
“Taking part in Strictly Come Dancing was an amazing experience and I am very glad I did it,” he said.
“I am now able to put one foot in front of the other and I think I’m coming away from it having learned a few dance steps.
“It was brilliant to be asked to do the show in the first place and I really did try my best.
“Yes, I’m disappointed to be out, particularly when I didn’t have the lowest score, but that’s just the way it goes.
“It was immensely hard work and a massive challenge and I never wanted to be the first one to go from our group of eight, but I’m also relieved to be getting back to my normal life.”
The Co Down man also weighed in behind judge Alesha Dixon, who was given more |airtime during the weekend’s shows in a bid by BBC bosses to increase her popularity.
Dunwoody said: “I think Alesha did a fantastic job. She brings something valuable to the judging panel. And she gave out some great tips to the contestants.”
Dunwoody found himself in the dance-off on Saturday night with Coronation Street actor Craig Kelly.
His fate was sealed when judges Craig Revel Horwod, Alesha Dixon and Bruno Tonioli voted to save Kelly, although head judge Len Goodman said he had been planning to save Dunwoody.
The two times Grand National champion said he thought he had got off lightly when it came to the judges’ harsh criticisms.
“To be honest, I thought their comments were fair,” he said “They could have said a lot worse to me.”
Dunwoody said he hoped one of the contestants from his group —Laila Rouass, Zoe Lucker, Natalie Cassidy, Craig Kelly, Phil Tufnell, Jo Wood and Ricky Whittle — would win the show.
“They are a smashing bunch of people, no egos at all between them, and I’d love to see one of them go on to win,” he said.
The former jockey said he had made some good friends on the show, particularly partner Lilia Kopylova, whom he described as “a fantastic, patient person”.
And he said he was definitely taking away a new skill — even if he was never going to show it off again.
“I’m leaving the show having learned to dance — a bit,” he said. “But I doubt I’ll ever be first on the dancefloor. I’ll be the one hiding in the corner of the room.”