Chris Maume: Twinkle-toed Healey can fill Ramprakash's dancing shoes

View from the sofa: Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1 Saturday, 6.45pm

Given its competitive nature, it makes sense that athletes have tended to do well on
Strictly Come Dancing – and not just Ramprakash the Rampant, who tore up the opposition in 2006.

There have been five series so far, with two winners from the world of sport – Darren Gough, who combined the feet of Fred Astaire with the body of John McCririck, won the year before Mark the Magnificent – plus three runners-up in Denise Lewis, Matt Dawson and Colin Jackson.

(We'll do the decent thing and try our best to forget about Peter Schmeichel, who took an early bath two years ago thanks to moves reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly, when he drags himself across the floor – part man, part insect, part machine – and begs Geena Davis to put him out of his misery with a pump-action shotgun.)

Now it's Austin Healey's turn, in Strictly 6 (BBC1, Saturday), and though it's early days, it looks like we could have another sporting winner. A fortnight ago, when the men did their first dances (in case you weren't aware, the men and women do alternate weeks), Healey finished on top of the leaderboard despite the fear factor. "Nothing can prepare you for it," he said. "It's the scariest thing I've ever done in my life – playing in front of 80,000 people in Twickenham doesn't even come close."

The head of the judges, Len Goodman (who took up dancing when football didn't work out for him, according to the Strictly website), described Healey's first effort as "the best first dance from a man I have ever seen," while the usually acid-tongued Craig Revel Horwood was gobsmacked: "It's graceful, it's elegant – it's quite shocking, actually."

On Saturday Healey, dressed in spangly black, was doing the jive with his partner, Erin Boag, which he claimed to be finding tough in rehearsal – "I feel like the Ant Hill Mob chasing Penelope Pitstop" – but even to a layman's eyes his footwork was sensational. Decent backs need nimble feet, and Healey is twinkle-toed. "You were pumping and riding that jive with devilish confidence," said Goodman's colleague Bruno Tonioli on Saturday. "I've never seen anything like that at this early stage of the competition." And Arlene "Hot Gossip" Phillips declared: "You have set the standard for Strictly 6!"

If, for every Ramprakash there's a Schmeichel, the new series has two of them in Mark Foster and Andrew Castle. Foster may have won six world swimming titles, but he is just too lanky to make a decent dancer – and he seems to know it. "You stand there like a Greek god," Phillips told him, "but it looks like all your charisma has flown out of the window."

Castle, meanwhile, was pure Danish goalkeeper. "I do admire your courage," was the nicest thing Revel Horwood could find to say, while Tonioli grimaced. "It was really painful to watch – you're so tight, like Jana Novotna in the Wimbledon final." Castle never got that far in his tennis career – he was best known for that ridiculous poll tax protest during the National Championships, you may recall – and he is unlikely to be around much longer as a dancer.

Still, at least none of them were as bad as celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, who makes Schmeichel look like Nureyev. "I was praying for you throughout," said Revel Horwood. "I didn't see you on your knees," observed Bruce Forsyth, the master of ceremonies. "Some people have," said Tonioli. And I thought it was supposed to be a family programme.

Gunners run short of credit

Commentating on Sunderland's 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Match of the Day on Saturday, Jonathan Pearce came up with the extraordinary fact that Roy Keane's squad cost more to assemble than Arsène Wenger's. And in the studio afterwards, Alan Hansen was dismissive of the Gunners' title chances. They're a very young side, that's true – and everyone knows you win nothing with kids...

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created