The Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams will appear on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing in the show’s first same-sex competing couple, the Guardian understands.
The former professional boxer will swap the ring for the ballroom when she pairs up with a female dance partner in the series starting next month, a first in the show’s 16-year history.
The 37-year-old won gold at the London 2012 Olympics and again at Rio 2016, before retiring from the sport last year. She was awarded an OBE for services to boxing in 2017, and has been hailed as an LGBT role-model.
Last year the BBC said it was “completely open” to having same-sex couples compete on Strictly in the future, a step change from previous years when the broadcaster said it had no plans to change the mixed-sex format, despite calls from several of the show’s stars.
The show for the first time aired a same-sex dance routine in last year’s series, a move which was widely praised on social media but did draw almost 200 complaints.
Earlier this year ice skating show Dancing On Ice also broadcast its first same-sex performance, with dancer H from Steps telling judges it was an emotional moment, in part because “it means so much to so many people and the world is ready for this”.
The choice of Adams, first reported by the Daily Mirror, means the boxer will join the first three officially confirmed names on this year’s Strictly line up, actor Caroline Quentin, former American football star Jason Bell and The Wanted singer Max George.
The Men Behaving Badly actor said she was “thrilled and terrified in equal measure to be taking part”, adding that she has some dance experience from when she was a child.
“What I’d say is I do remember some of what I’ve learned but my knees are 50 years older than the last time I attempted any of it. And it’s my knees and my under garments that are troubling me most as a notion at the moment,” she said.
Bell, who used to play for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, is best known to UK audiences as the host of The NFL Show on the BBC, alongside Osi Umenyiora.
George will follow in the footsteps of his former bandmate Jay McGuiness, who won the show in 2015 with professional partner Aliona Vilani.
The musician and actor said: “Buzzing to be on Strictly this year. Not really one for the dancefloor, but I take a lot of comfort in the fact that Jay McGuiness set The Wanted’s bar so low.”
This year’s series of Strictly will be shorter because of coronavirus precautions and Bruno Tonioli will be missing from the judging panel for Saturday night shows as he is also on the panel for the US version of the show, Dancing With The Stars, and is unable to travel back and forth from Los Angeles because of current travel restrictions.