■ The BBC Breakfast presenter, 54, on Strictly On Tour, his weight loss and meeting the great man behind Frank Spencer
How excited are you about the Strictly tour and dancing with Katya again?
Unbelievably. I’d have been sad if I thought we’d come to the end of the Strictly journey when the TV show finished. The tour means it’s going to happen again for us but this time in some amazing venues and arenas. I’ve covered a lot of sport in them and never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be performing in them.
Are you managing to keep the weight off?
A little bit has gone back on but I lost a stone and a half and comedian Chris Ramsay said I was looking ill. He thinks I look normal again now but I’m still more than a stone lighter. It’s going to be a battle but the tour is going to be fantastic for fitness and weight loss. I’ve been keeping fit with tennis and running as well as going through the dance routine in the kitchen and garden so once it starts I can hit the ground running.
Katya helped your posture too, didn’t she?
Yes, and people keep commenting on that or saying that their wives or partners have been on at them to try to improve their posture. It makes such a difference once you engage that muscle in the back and clench it. You feel taller and it has so many benefits. My mum has nagged me for years not to slouch and she can’t believe she no longer has to.
You had some awful comments and a death threat while you were on Strictly. How did you handle it?
It was just the one and as soon as I started to investigate the death threat to report it, it was deleted. Some of the other really nasty ones were telling me to do things to myself and to pull out of the competition. I didn’t really take it seriously. I did reply to a lady who told me I’ll never be a dancer. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to get people on BBC Breakfast to try different sports and have fun with them rather than worry about being rubbish so don’t say that because it’s killing all hope for everyone. But for every negative comment I received 99 positive ones.
Is it a relief to be better known for Strictly now than for falling in a swimming pool at the 2018 Commonwealth Games?
Yes, it’s nice that people could see I’m not clumsy all the time and we could get through routines without falling over. But I remember that moment fondly. The swimmers had got stuck in traffic so the cameraman and I had to pick up the tripod and run up to this hotel pool to do their interviews. I’d remembered all their names and what they’d won but I didn’t remember to look at the pool and its contours before stepping in! The social media reaction was so big, instantly. I got back to the beach five minutes later to do the next report and the security guard had already seen it on his phone. There was coverage in Uganda, Uruguay, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, everywhere. It was one of those things that turned out well.
Your wife Emily has compared you to Frank Spencer. Is that about right?
I went to a cricket thing last year and met Michael Crawford — we got on so well that we’ve kept in touch. There’s no way I could be compared to the great man himself, he was so skilful. But I can be a little bit Frank Spencerish when it comes to DIY. Katya thought my clumsiness was rubbing off on her for the first week of training because she accidentally kicked me in the face, inadvertently hit me with a stick and scraped her car. But dancing has improved my balance and memory so I haven’t done anything clumsy since the end of September!
You hold the world record for participating in the greatest number of different sports. Which is the weirdest?
Bog snorkelling in Wales. There’s a 60m-long peat bog which is full of freezing water and they have loads of events in it. It’s become absolutely huge. And also worm charming in Cheshire, where you have half an hour to get as many worms out of a square metre of earth as you can. The record is 563, which is held by a girl who played Greensleeves on the recorder to them.
You studied drama at university. Would you like to do more on stage?
I love the job I have on BBC Breakfast so the reason for doing Strictly wasn’t career-motivated. When Strictly came along I thought, what a chance to try and get others into dancing and see if an old ‘dad dancer’ can be transformed into a proficient dancer. I didn’t expect to end up in the West End but I will stay with the day job. I’d love to keep dancing. I think Emily and I will go to a class and then maybe in later life I’ll set up a dance class for older men. I’ve been told by a lot of dads in a lot of supermarkets that they’ve started dance classes after seeing me on Strictly.
■ The Strictly Come Dancing UK Arena Tour starts tomorrow and runs until February 9. For more info see strictlycomedancinglive.com