Dan Walker has expressed his sadness following his departure from Strictly Come Dancing with dance partner Nadiya Bychkova. The pair found themselves in the bottom two alongside AJ Odudu and her partner Kai Widdrington, who were unanimously saved by the judges.
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Taking to Instagram after the news was confirmed, Dan shared pictures of their performance - a Tango to Santa Maria by Gotan Project - and wrote a heartfelt message for professional dancer Nadiya.
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Reflecting on his time on the show, he kicked off his three-part message with: "Well… what a ride! Strictly has been a truly wonderful experience for me. I have met some amazing people and enjoyed every second. It has been magnificent to be a small part of a show that means so much to so many people. I came into it a complete beginner with the lowest of expectations and ended up coming 5th!"
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He added: "I discovered a love of dance and learned an incredible new set of skills. It was such a privilege to get to watch some of the best professional dancers on the planet up close. I have a newfound appreciation of their pure talent & expertise… It's been lovely to get to know my fellow contestants & I can't wait to spend more time with them in the future."
The 44-year-old mentioned how "proud" he was of what he and Nadiya achieved together. "To make the quarter-finals having never danced before while still doing BBC Breakfast, the NFL Show and lots of other work, not living in London and being the oldest person left by about a decade tells you everything about her talent and how hard we worked," he said.
"She taught me to no longer fear the dance floor. My stomach doesn’t fold in on itself when I walk out there now. I'm not a dancer but Nadiya showed me that I can dance and that is a game-changer."
Dan Walker became the tenth celebrity to leave Strictly
As well as thanking the Strictly crew and fans, Dan then turned his attention to his wife Sarah and their three children. "My amazing family have been there throughout," he noted. "I'm thankful to my children for persuading me to finally do Strictly after years of saying 'no' and to my wife - and wider family - for being so supportive and doing everything in my absence.
"They have loved getting to know Nadiya and watching the show became such a lovely part of the weekend. The good news is, after seeing me work hard and perform, I can now do the same for our 2 girls… it's their Christmas show next Saturday and I can’t wait to be a proud dad."
In his final part, Dan touched upon negative messages he received from critics. "To the angry mob who shouted, insulted and moaned each week… please think about your words," he continued. "I can thankfully cope with it but others can’t and some of it is cruel, unkind and unnecessary. I love watching Strictly for the brilliant dancers but also for the improvers, the no-hopers and the ones who surprise themselves and everyone else."
The pair were hugely popular with fans
The message was then directed to his "professional partner and favourite barmaid Nadiya Bychkova". He said: "It's been one of the great privileges of my life to get to know her. We got on from day one and we have taught each other so much.
"She is kind, encouraging, hilarious, clever, the best teacher I could ever have hoped for and a great friend. She gave me a confidence that I always felt would be way beyond me and showed me the joy of dancing. I’m not going to dance every week but I won’t not dance anymore and that - for me - is a huge change."
Dan then concluded with: "Keep enjoying the show and thanks again for all the support. You've been amazing."
Upon learning of the verdict on the results' show, Dan told co-host Tess Daly: "When I go back to the first day when I was asked to dance in front of some glitter balls, at that point, if there had been a fire exit, I'd have just walked away.
"But this amazing woman grabbed me by the hand, and brought me out onto this dance floor. I'm not a dancer, but she showed me that I can dance, and that for me, this has been an absolutely incredible experience."
Nadiya - who was later pictured crying when leaving the studio - also had an emotional response, saying: "Like he said, sometimes the right person walks into your life at the right time and that's what happened. You always encourage everyone, you always have time for everyone, it just inspires me to be a better person myself. Thank you."
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