When Pop Idol Gareth Gates signed up to appear in the latest series of hit show Dancing On Ice, even his professional dance partner had reservations as to whether his singing talents would translate into skating success. As he prepares for Saturday's Chicago-themed performance, however, the Bradford-born star is looking a front-runner in the competition.

"Gareth has a good natural ability for skating and gliding, and of course we'd love to win," says his professional ice partner Maria Filippov. "But we have agreed that the main thing is to be the best we can be and enjoy the journey."

The pair are taking the competition seriously, though, enlisting the help of former Blue star Duncan James, a finalist in last year's show, to help them prepare for this weekend. Duncan is currently starring in Chicago, so is the ideal choice to help Maria and Gareth hone their on-ice dance routine influenced by the West End play.

Also enjoying appearing on the show is fellow contestant and former javelin champ Steve Backley, although he admits to coming in for a little stick from his pals about the skimpy outfits. "Your mates are giving you a bit of stick about being dressed in Lycra and they’re laughing, but in a 'good on you' way," he laughs. "It’s a bit of fun and you don’t take yourself too seriously, you’re learning a skill and mixing with some lovely people so it’s great."

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Dance team Gareth and Maria practice some dramatic moves as they gear up for their Chicago-themed routine Photo: © Rex
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Bulgarian ice skating whizz Maria gets a boost from Duncan and Gareth as they practice their latest performancePhoto: © Rex
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Former javelin champ Steve is also enjoying his time on the hit TV series. "It's a bit of fun and you don't take yourself too seriously," he revealsPhoto: © Rex
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