The finalists had been introduced dancing in front of huge glowing stars in an opening pro dance to the strains of Boy Meets Girl’s Waiting for a Star to Fall. Later there was a guest-turn by Ed Sheeran who, ever the helpful elf, popped up to read out the phone number for the public vote (as did 2020 winner Bill Bailey).
There was also the traditional group dance featuring contestants from earlier in the season including comedian Judi Love, Tom Fletcher of McFly and actor Greg Wise, aka Mr Emma Thompson. Absent were comedian Robert Webb, who’d left the series earlier owing to health issues and influencer Tilly Ramsay who had tested positive for Covid during the week.
The final was watched from the sidelines by a visibly upset Odudu and her pro partner Kai Widdrington. “I don’t know how to describe what it feels like to have a broken heart – but that’s what it feels like,” said Odudu, wearing a sparkling orthopaedic boot. “We’ve been swallowing tears throughout the night.”
Ayling-Ellis’s remarkable Strictly streak has been a feel-good story straight out of Hollywood. With her hearing difficulties making it impossible for her to follow along to the music, she has kept time through muscle memory and by counting her steps.
Yet she has overcome these obstacles in hugely moving fashion. With the disabled still under-represented on the airwaves, Ayling-Ellis has stated that her goal has been to become a role-model for deaf people. “I want to enjoy it, and be myself, and hopefully make a change,” she told the Telegraph. “And for deaf children – I didn’t have a role model on TV growing up.”