Although she's just 25, Lauren Steadman has already achieved great success in her life as a Paralympian, most recently winning the ITU World Championships for paratriathletes in Australia just before Strictly Come Dancing kicked off its series. Lauren was announced as the thirteenth celebrity to appear on Strictly back in August, and said at the time that she had been a fan of the show since a young age. She added: "I'm more nervous about being on stage, performing live and in front of the judges than I am about the Elite Paratriathlon Grand Final next month! But I’m up for the challenge and excited to swap my triathlon kit for dancing shoes and sequins."
Strictly Come Dancing
Lauren has impressed judges with her fearless attitude on the dance floor, and last Saturday, she was praised for giving her best performance yet. The athlete - who is partnered with pro dancer AJ Pritchard – danced a Waltz to You Are the Reason by Calum Scott and Leona Lewis, which saw notoriously critical Craig Revel Horwood tell her: "I felt you were dancing for the first time tonight, without judgement. Absolutely brilliant." After being saved on Sunday's results show, Lauren took to social media to express her happiness at having made it through to the famous Blackpool show. She shared a photo of her and AJ dancing the Waltz, and wrote besides the image: "Words cannot describe how happy, excited, and grateful I am to be going to Blackpool! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for us @aj11ace. Week 9, are you ready for me?"
Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard have become close on Strictly
Relationship with AJ Pritchard
Lauren has been having the time of her life while competing in Strictly Come Dancing. The pair have recently hit the headlines after AJ revealed that he was "very protective" of Lauren, instigating romance rumours in the process. The 24-year-old told The Mirror: "I am protective of Lauren because we have worked so close together. There are different things that she will talk about in training that she would never talk about on camera. It's for that reason that we have grown so close together and we will be friends for life and who knows in the future…You never know what is going to happen."
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Early life and Paralympic success
Born in Peterborough in 1992, Lauren was born without her right forearm, and is the first ever female disabled contestant to appear on Strictly. The sporting star studied at Mount Kelly in Tavistock, Devon, and later undertook a Business and Management master's degree at the University of Portsmouth. Lauren's career was inspired by her uncle, who was also a triathlete. In 2009, Lauren won the gold medal at The Paralympic World Championships in the 100 metre relay, and competed in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, as well as the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London as a swimmer. In total she has 26 medals – and counting!
Lauren has enjoyed an incredible career as a Paralympian
Lauren as a role model
Throughout her life, Lauren has been adamant that her disability won't hold her back on anything. She said ahead of competing in Strictly that she wanted to be able to prove this. "It's not disability, it's ability, and there's always ways around things – just be a bit more imaginative," she said. Lauren has been an amazing role model during her time on the show, and has addressed the issues that both she and AJ have overcome in training as a result of her arm. At the Strictly press day, she said: "I think it's a nice challenge for him. This sounds bad, but if you get someone with all their limbs, you just do the same thing you normally do. But when you have to think outside the box, it's more exciting and a challenge."
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She added: "I always like a challenge, I've always been like that since I was a little girl," and that she wanted to "inspire others with disability and women that feel it's outside their comfort zone." Most recently, HELLO!'s columnist Brendan Cole praised Lauren and AJ's partnership. He said: "This young man is proving his ability as a dancer and teacher and is standing out in the competition for me amongst some of his peers. I also have to applaud the BBC’s choice of VT and mentioning of Lauren's disability. The more my children see and hear about inspirational, capable people like Lauren and know that they are just like everyone else, the better."
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