AJ Odudu has said she was “gutted” after suffering a torn ligament which forced her to pull out of the Strictly Come Dancing final.
The TV presenter and partner Kai Widdrington were due to compete on Saturday night against soap star Rose Ayling-Ellis and partner Giovanni Pernice and baker John Whaite and partner Johannes Radebe for the glitterball trophy, but her ability to perform had been thrown into question after injuring herself in rehearsals.
The duo have now pulled out of the live final after consulting medical professionals regarding her foot injury.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) December 17, 2021
Appearing on the BBC spin off show It Takes Two for the 1,000th episode, she said: “You know what, we literally had the best experience and on Monday…my ankle just gave way with my ligament rupture, we were gutted, we were ready to smash it.
“At the beginning of the week when the pain came on so acutely I thought we will never give up, everyone has been looking after me.
“I said as long as it wasn’t a fracture…but its too risky.
“I have literally done everything in my power to be on that dance floor.
Sadly due to injury AJ and Kai have had to withdraw from #Strictly and won’t compete in tomorrow’s final. We want to thank them for 13 incredible weeks on the show and the pure joy they brought to the dance floor every week. ❤️ https://t.co/DlCFHiEAMc pic.twitter.com/S4K142aerd
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) December 17, 2021
“I asked the medics if I could dance in a moon boot!”
Co-host of the show Rylan Clark-Neal told viewers that the rupture could take up to a year to heal if she were to dance on it.
Partner Widdrington, who was crying during the interview, said: “We were really hoping we would get over the line and dance in the final, we had very energetic dances but the injury is just too bad and at the end of he day, AJ’s health is more important.
“We earned our place in the final.”
The couple were shown a highlight reel from their time on Strictly Come Dancing, as well as messages from AJ’s family.
In the video, her mum said: “I hopped for joy when she said she was taking part in Strictly…we all love you, the sky is the limit.”
The TV presenter said to dance partner Widdrington: “Looking back at those moments it has been an absolute pleasure dancing with you every single week, so thank you.”
Odudu, from Blackburn, had previously said the pain in her ankle was so bad that she vomited and earlier this week she was unable to stand on her right foot or stand up at all without crutches.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) December 15, 2021
Odudu’s withdrawal means just two pairs will compete in the final, performing three routines each.
In an official statement, she said: “I’m deeply upset that I am unable to perform in the final due to a torn ligament in my right ankle.
“Learning to dance over the last 13 weeks has been an incredible honour and to do it alongside someone as special, patient and devoted as Kai is something I’ll treasure forever.
“Thank-you to the Strictly family for the experience, the medical team for trying to get me back on my feet, and mostly to everyone at home for watching and supporting.
“You’ve made this experience one to remember. Strictly Come Dancing has been a lifelong dream and I’m glad it came true.
“Good luck to my partners in dance, John and Johannes and Rose and Giovanni.
“I will be cheering you on (on one leg).”
Widdrington said: “I’ve been absolutely honoured to get to dance with the incredible AJ Odudu for the last few months and although neither of us wanted our journey to end this way, AJ’s health and safety are by far the most important things.
“I want to thank AJ for being the absolute best partner I could ever have asked for in my first year on the show and I will always treasure the memories of dancing in the Strictly ballroom with her.
“I know we will be friends for life and I will be there for her through her recovery in whatever way I can.
“I want to wish good luck to John and Johannes and Rose and Giovanni for the final.
“Finally, the biggest thank you to everyone who voted for us throughout the series, your support has been unforgettable.”
It is unclear how their withdrawal will impact the format of the show, which is due to run for more than two hours.
Sarah James, executive producer of Strictly Come Dancing, said: “AJ may not be able to compete in the final but she is and always will be one of the most brilliant Strictly finalists we have ever had.
“We cannot thank her enough for fully embracing the experience and being a total delight both on and off the dancefloor.
“AJ and Kai are a wonderful partnership and have performed some unforgettable routines over the last few months.
“Although this is not how we would have wanted her Strictly journey to end, AJ’s health and wellbeing come first and everyone involved in the show send her all our love and wish her a speedy recovery.”
The Strictly Come Dancing final is on BBC One on Saturday at 7pm.