Exclusive: Kristina Rihanoff fears lack of Irish votes may cost Daniel O'Donnell Strictly Come Dancing crown
Kristina Rihanoff believes her latest partner Daniel O’Donnell can emerge as the dark horse to claim first place this season’s Strictly Come Dancing, but she is worried that a lack of votes from Ireland may cost him a chance of winning the show.
Kristina and Daniel will waltz to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling when the hit BBC show gets underway tonight, with the Russian dance queen telling Independent.ie that her partner is ready to defy his doubters in his debut performance.
“I think Daniel is going to surprise a few people this weekend and he has already surprised me with the way he has worked and how far he has come in our first few weeks together,” Kristina tells us in an exclusive interview.
“My impression is that people do not expect a whole lot from Daniel. He doesn’t have any background in dancing and is starting from fresh, but the enthusiasm and dedication he has shown so far has been so impressive.
“We have had a wonderful time together. He is a lovely person and a perfect student for me, which is all you can ask for when you are given a celebrity in Strictly.
“Sometimes it might seem like we want to be given a partner who is sportsman or someone who has been involved in dancing at some point in their career, but I prefer to get a chance to work with someone like Daniel.
“This is a blank canvas, we are starting from scratch. He knew very little about dancing and we have had a crash course over the last few weeks, which has been a wonderful experience for both of us. Oh and by the way, he is also in very good shape physically.
“There have been several times when we have been working for many hours in the dance studio and I have said, let’s take a break, lets have some food or a drink. Daniel often stops me and says wants us to carry on until we get it right.
“I can see why he has been so successful in his musical career because he has a wonderful work ethic and a passion for everything he does. I quickly realized that this is a guy who wants to do something right when he puts his mind to it and that bodes well for what we are trying to do on Strictly together.
“Let’s wait and see how the first performance goes this weekend, but I think the judges will be pleasantly surprised by what they find when we hear the lovely When Irish Eyes Are Smiling tune this weekend.”
Kristina and Daniel have been working on their dance moves in London since they were put together by BBC bosses three weeks ago and the female half of this unlikely double act is hoping his UK-based fans will votes for him in their droves in a competition that also features Peter Andre, Ainsley Harriett and Kirsty Gallagher.
“I am worried that we might not pick up as many votes as we should because the people in Ireland cannot vote for Daniel,” admits Kristina.
“We all know he has a huge fan base in the UK and hopefully they will all get on the phone lines and vote for us because we will see great things from Daniel if he is given a chance to work on different dances over the next few weeks.
“I have been learning so much about Daniel in the last few weeks and his success in Ireland, the UK and around the world confirms that he has supporters everywhere, so hopefully they can all find a way to vote one way or the other.”
Daniel landed on his feet when he was paired with Kristina for this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, with the dancer who has hit the headlines time and again since her debut on the BBC show back in 2008 the perfect teacher for the 53-year-old crooner.
Runner-up alongside boyband singing Simon Webbe last year, Kristina is already looking forward to the Strictly tour next year when she will take centre-stage with O’Donnell in Ireland.
“We always look forward to the Irish shows on the Strictly tour as you have the best audiences over there and it will be amazing to go there in the New Year with Daniel,” she adds.
“Dancing is a big part of Irish culture and when you see what Riverdance did for dancing stage shows around the world, it shows that Ireland is the home of dance in many ways.
“Hopefully Daniel and I can do you all proud on Strictly this year and if his Irish fans can find a way to vote from us from Ireland somehow, please do it!”
The first live shows of Strictly Come Dancing 2015 are on BBC 1 on Friday and Saturday night this week.