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Countdown star Rachel Riley tips Carol Kirkwood for Strictly Come Dancing glory


Carol Kirkwood has been tipped as a dark horse for this year's Strictly.

Carol Kirkwood has been tipped as a dark horse for this year's Strictly.

Carol Kirkwood has been tipped as a dark horse for this year's Strictly.

Countdown maths expert Rachel Riley has tipped Carol Kirkwood to be the surprise star on this year's Strictly Come Dancing.

The 29-year-old - who competed in the 2013 series of the BBC1 show - said the BBC Breakfast weather presenter, who is partnered with Pasha Kovalev, could be the unexpected break-out name this year.

Riley, who is dating the Russian professional dancer, told the Press Association: "I obviously am biased, but she's got a great teacher and she has all this enthusiasm. She wants to work hard.

"The best thing about Strictly is it doesn't matter what level you start at, if you've never put a foot in front of the other in your life. I think she'll be great."

Kirkwood is among the celebrities in this year's line-up alongside Peter Andre, Jeremy Vine, Ainsley Harriott and Jamelia. Bookmakers William Hill predict Vine and Kirkwood will be voted out first, ahead of Daniel O'Donnell, Harriott and Iwan Thomas.

"I hope they can go as far as they possibly can," Riley said of Kirkwood and Kovalev.

"I think she's full of enthusiasm about the dancing and she's loving the Strictly experience. It's every little girl's dream - being dressed up, and each dance you learn, you just want to do some more. They'll have a great time. She's got a great and patient teacher and she's a lovely person. She's a national treasure."

She said the rest of the line-up is "interesting."

"There's a lot more of an even playing field in terms of dancing ability. That's great for genuine fans of Strictly, because they like to see the journey someone goes on, and get better week after week. It's really hard to pick a winner at this moment," she said.

"Peter has dancing and performing experience, he's a popular guy and I'm sure he'll work hard so I'm sure he'll definitely be up there."

The Oxford mathematics graduate said while she still does some dancing and Zumba, she's happy to step back from the show.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I'm happy that I enjoyed every minute of it when I did it," she explained.

"Looking back on it, it feels like the most terrifying thing in the world to step on that dancefloor. I still love dancing, but I don't miss the nerves and waiting to hear your name called."

Riley was speaking as she supported National Techy Tea Party Day 2015 at the EE store in Westfield London, where she offered help and advice regarding online skills to those most in need of help.

The annual event, which is in partnership with older people's charity, Royal Voluntary Service and Jobcentre Plus, took place at more than 500 stores across the UK this morning.

"Digital exclusion is a difficult issue for families across the whole of the UK including my own. I love seeing my nan, but with such a busy schedule and a long distance between us I don't get to see her nearly as often as I would like," she said.

"I video call my nan in Manchester, and keep her up to date with what me and the family are up to."

The star is a fan of translation apps, which she's using to learn Kovalev's mother tongue.

"I had an app to teach me the language in three hours and once I did that, I thought it wasn't as inaccessible as I thought so I got another program on my iPad, which teaches you eight words a day with grammar," she explained.

"I can say a few important things - I can order food and say I'm hungry. My boyfriend's mum came over this summer and she can't speak English. She's not tech-savvy but I can use my phone to show videos and photos. We've Skyped as well, Pasha's brother set it up."

PA Media