Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Simmonds has said her time on Strictly Come Dancing has been “life-changing” as she became the sixth contestant to be eliminated from the competition.
Following the live show on Saturday, the five-time Paralympic gold medallist and broadcaster, 27, found herself in the dreaded dance-off against 21-year-old singer and former Britain’s Got Talent finalist Molly Rainford.
Dressed in a fringed crimson red dress, Simmonds and her dance partner Nikita Kuzmin reprised their lively Charleston to Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me Kate in a bid to impress the judges.
During Saturday’s show, Simmonds secured a score of 33 and had the audience and some of the judges on their feet following the routine, which had multiple spins and lifts.
Meanwhile, Rainford and her partner Carlos Gu again performed their foxtrot to You Make Me Happy by My Sun and My Stars, which saw them land 35 points during the live show, with Shirley Ballas describing it as the “epitome of style and sophistication”.
After both couples had danced for a second time, it was a unanimous decision by the judges to save Rainford, sending Simmonds packing.
Craig Revel Horwood said: “Well the couple I’d like to save are a couple that I think danced better than they did on Saturday night in this particular dance-off, and that couple is Molly and Carlos.”
Motsi Mabuse praised both couples, saying they “danced exceptionally well”, and Anton Du Beke said it was a “terrific dance-off”, but both felt Rainford and Gu had the edge.
With three votes to Rainford and Gu, it meant they had won the majority vote and would be staying in the competition regardless, but head judge Ballas also said she would have saved the pair.
She said: “Well it was one of the best dance-offs I think I’ve ever seen, but again the performance was a little bit stronger in this dance-off and I would have awarded it to Molly and Carlos.”
Video of the Day
Reflecting on her time on the show, Simmonds said: “I’ve literally had the time of my life. It’s been the most incredible experience – life-changing really.
“I want to thank Nikita ever so much. I’m going to miss him – he’s changed my life and confidence.”
She praised the Strictly team, including the professional dancers and those behind the scenes, saying: “I’ve literally loved waking up every single day and dancing, I’m going to dance forever.”
Turning to her partner, she added: “He’s (Nikita) changed my life. We’ve had the most amazing days. We’ve had not just dancing days – but days we’ve just spoken for hours.
“And the confidence you’ve given me – I seem confident but you know what I’m like, I worry about everything so, so much and we’ve literally represented everything.
“We went out there and danced our life out every single night and I loved it so much.”
Kuzmin admitted he was “a bit disappointed” to be leaving as he wanted Simmonds to have more time on the show, but added that he was “really happy” that this journey had been with her.
“She has taught me so, so much, so much empathy, just so much, I’ve learnt so much in these seven weeks,” he added.
“I really wanted to go with you to Blackpool, I think we should go there for the rides? I love you Els, I just want to tell you every single person in this room loves you.
“That is just to say how much of a beautiful human you are, you spend time to go to each person inside this room, you care about everybody, you are just such a wonderful human and I am so glad I’ve had the chance to dance with you.”
The remaining nine couples will take to the dancefloor next when Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday at 6.55pm, with the results show on Sunday at 7.20pm on BBC One.