Strictly’s Mike Bushell has been consoling a crying Katya Jones

Mike Bushell has become a shoulder to cry on for Strictly partner Katya Jones – and is sopping wet from all her weekly tears.

After last week’s dance, he had to hug her when she broke down.

But the bouncy BBC Breakfast sports presenter insists Katya is not sobbing over last year’s kiss with Seann Walsh or this year’s split with fellow dance pro hubby Neil.

No – Mike says it is all his fault.

“Last week was the toughest emotionally. I had a bad cold and wasn’t at the races a lot of a time,” he says.

“The dress rehearsal was so bad no one would look me in the eye. Katya said, ‘Don’t think about it, don’t watch it’. I kept missing the 10th step and the next 30 seconds of the routine went to pot.

“On the live show, I came up to the 10th step like a horse approaching a fence, in slow motion. I was thinking, ‘Here we go, here we go’. Then the foot landed and from that moment I knew the rest of the dance would follow.

“So at the end, Katya realised for the first time ever we’d pulled the dance off. It was like being 3-0 down at home to a non-league football team then coming back in the last minute. The relief and release of emotions was intense.”

Viewers will feel just as relieved to hear they are not watching Katya, who faced accusations she was drunk after falling in two shows, unravel because of personal reasons. But does Mike feel her traumatic year has left her feeling scrutinised and fragile?

“Crikey, no. I’ve not noticed anything. Neil is so supportive, so I haven’t felt that. Katya’s got so much energy, he’s absolutely on fire.”

Mike, 53, married Emily, 39, in May and has three daughters from his previous marriage – Lucy, 22, Izzy, 20, and Sophie, 16 – as well as a 10-year-old stepson, Josh.

Before slipping on his Strictly kit he was best known for his have-a-go attitude of trying over 500 different sports and falling in to a swimming pool during a live interview at last year’s Commonwealth Games – a clip shared 11.5 million times in a day. He is notoriously clumsy, so he is still stunned head judge Shirley Ballas hailed last week’s quickstep as “sophisticated”. And he says the miraculous transformation from dud-dancer to 32-point slick-mover is down to Katya – and something from his wife’s bottom drawer.

“I changed into my lucky socks after the disastrous dress rehearsal,” he says. “They’re black, really thin and extra-long. I think they might be Emily’s. But they’re definitely
not stockings.”

The story of Mike’s romance with Emily is full of fun and shows his bubbly on-screen persona is genuine. Last October, after a seven-month romance, he proposed dressed as Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings. The gag was a bit lost on her, as she had never seen the film, but she still said yes. Their first dance at the wedding was “jumping up and down to Sun Is Shining by Axwell & Ingrosso, which is a bit of a trance tune, so quite unconventional”.

Emily, who said her first impression of 5ft 5in Mike was “Gosh, you’re quite short”, has Katya to thank for her hubby’s new slimline body.

At the start of the series, she pointed out, with a pat on his tum, that she would work on his belly. Did the jibe hurt?

“Oh no, I’m an average bloke on the sofa,” says Mike. “I go running and play football sometimes but it’s not enough to work off the odd pint and takeaway. The intensity of the training works every muscle, you naturally become leaner.

“I’ve lost over a stone. I can wear shirts I couldn’t get on two months ago.”

Does Emily like his new look? “Oh indeed! Emily’s really finding a new me, physically.”

Emily’s not the only one, as Mike is winning legions of new fans who love his cuddly cheeriness.

“Lots of mums have been sending nice messages. It’s lovely to have people think I’m cuddly but I’m not when I’m all sweaty and tired. But I’ve not been asked to do a calendar yet – I’d scare people.”

But the calendar offer is bound to come this weekend, after his samba to the Sugarhill Gang’s Jump On It. “There’s lots of hip action, hip thrusting and a samba roll,” he says.

Going by previous form, which has seen Mike as a rhinestone cowboy and whipping off a fireman’s uniform after sliding down a pole, his next routine is sure to entertain.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be a cowboy with Katya flipping up on to my shoulders, or sliding down the biggest pole in Strictly history. They are iconic moments that will stay with me for life.”

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