When gold medal winning Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty, 26, became the latest celebrity to be eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing last weekend, his partner Eiri Munro, 23, could be forgiven for heaving a sigh of relief.
After all, Eiri found her own relationship with the swimmer under public scrutiny when Peaty and his dance partner Katya Jones, appeared to almost kiss during a steamy Argentine tango. Here Eiri, an artist, who lives with Adam and their son, George, one, gives a candid account of the Strictly experience from a partner’s perspective. Her observations may surprise you . . .
IT’LL BE A BREEZE COMPARED WITH THE OLYMPICS
August 5: We’re in our garden with Adam’s brother huddled round the radio when it’s announced that he will be among those taking part in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. We’ve been keeping this news under our hats for a few weeks now and can finally share our excitement.
We hug one another and Adam’s brother teases him about his chances of winning — his talents in the water are indisputable but on the dance floor? Let’s just say he’s no Rudolf Nureyev . . .
‘Adam’s dance partner is Katya Jones. All we know about her is that she’s extremely competitive and an incredible choreographer. If he wants to do well, she tells him, they will need to rehearse for 12 hours every day. Gulp’
The whole experience should be a breeze though compared with the Olympics this summer. Nothing could possibly impact on family life like Adam being in Tokyo for five weeks, plus all the training he did in the run-up to the games, which is a relief as I’ve been mostly home alone with George since his birth in September 2020.
MISSES OUR SON’S FIRST BIRTHDAY
September 11: It’s our son’s first birthday and Adam has been at the rehearsal studio since the day before to pre-record the dance partner-reveal show, which will air next Saturday.
After many days spent saying good morning and good night over FaceTime, while he was in Tokyo, the last thing I want is for Adam to have to wish George happy birthday through a phone screen.
Adam’s dance partner is Katya Jones. All we know about her is that she’s extremely competitive and an incredible choreographer. If he wants to do well, she tells him, they will need to rehearse for 12 hours every day. Gulp. That’s a long way from the 12 hours a week we had envisaged.
I’ve never been a Strictly fan so have no pre-conceived ideas about Katya.
Adam and I have a very strong relationship. Obviously, I’ve heard of the ‘Strictly Curse’. In fact, from the moment rumours began in August that Adam would be on the show, strangers started sending me messages on social media saying: ‘Don’t let him go on the show!’, ‘Adam is going to leave you! for his dance partner’.
Adam is a good man and father so I am not worried.
ODD TO SEE HIM SO CLOSE TO ANOTHER WOMAN
September 25: It’s week one of the competition and, although no-one will leave tonight, the judges’ scores will be carried over to next week, when voting goes public, so Adam, competitive Olympian that he is, is eager to do his best at the cha cha.
Despite his athletic fitness levels, he’s been coming home from rehearsals exhausted.
I cook his favourite meals — cottage pie, with steak pieces instead of mince, and grilled steak with vegetables — which we eat on the sofa, with Sauvignon Blanc.
Eiri found her own relationship with the swimmer under public scrutiny when Peaty and his dance partner Katya Jones, appeared to almost kiss during a steamy Argentine tango
George stays with his grandma overnight and I watch the show with friends. I can’t believe how nervous I feel when the show’s introductory music starts. I’m used to seeing him compete on TV but usually he’s swimming — and wins gold medals for that!
There’s no denying it’s a bit awkward seeing my partner getting up close and personal with another woman, especially on live TV, in front of millions of people.
Who wouldn’t feel uncomfortable? But Adam and I have talked about it and are both aware that the physical intimacy is just unavoidable, no threat to us, and all part of the performance.
And, woo-hoo — all his hard work pays off! All four judges praise his footwork — even the critical Craig Revel Horwood seems smitten saying: ‘I was glued to every inch of movement darling, you couldn’t get my eyes off it’ — and he and Katya come joint second on the leader board.
A RINGSIDE SEAT — AND MEETING KATYA AT LAST
October 2/3: Tonight I have a ringside seat — and cannot wait. I’m going to watch live at the BBC’s Elstree studios with my sister, Abigail, 20, who’s a big Strictly fan. Adam does an impressive quickstep to Are You Gonna Be My Girl and I grin like a Cheshire cat throughout.
I meet Katya for the first time and she seems lovely.
Being so close to the action as Adam and Katya do the quickstep is even more exciting than watching from home. They come second from last but Shirley Ballas is spot on when she tells Adam: ‘You are not going down easy and you are 100 per cent competitive.’
Adam and I travel home together in the car, getting back at 2am. And he did it — only just, as he’s one point from the bottom of the leaderboard — and is through to next week!
I FEEL LIKE A SINGLE MUM
October 9/10: It’s movie week and, before the show begins, Adam sends me a photograph of him looking hot, dressed and made-up as a character from Avatar. It’s my favourite of all his Strictly costumes. I can’t resist teasing my Instagram followers with a message saying: ‘Let me tell you now . . . you are not ready. Proud of you baby.’ And I really am. He’s working so hard that he limps through the door at the end of the day and when he takes his shoes and socks off, his feet are like balloons.
The moment Adam comes on screen, George makes a beeline for the TV, shaking his bottom to the music and shouting ‘Daddy!’ The delight in his face makes all these long days, feeling like a single mum, worthwhile.
Sadly the judges aren’t as impressed with Adam’s rumba and he and Katya end up at the bottom of the leaderboard, though mercifully survive the dance-off to fight another week.
HIS TANGO IS VERY HARD FOR ME TO WATCH
October 16: Adam warned me last night that this week’s routine, the Argentine tango, is a ‘very sexy dance’. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine, I can handle it’.
But watching, at home with my mum, woah, it’s intense.
Afterwards, I decide to see what others are saying about it on Twitter and cannot believe how many people are suggesting that Adam almost kissed Katya. Obviously Adam didn’t go in for a kiss.
It gets really hard when family members and friends start messaging asking if I’m OK, obviously swayed by what they’re reading online. I even get messages from strangers telling me I need to leave Adam, can’t they see that performing on Strictly is like acting?
It’s not easy for me as Adam’s partner to watch, but I know in order for them to continue in the competition they have to 100 per cent commit to the role.
I CRY OVER SOME OF THE CRUEL COMMENTS
October 17: Humour is the best way to deal with most things in life, so last night, I put out a video on TikTok of me pretending to cry alongside the message: ‘Watching your boyfriend almost kiss another woman on live TV. Finding out ten million people also saw it.’
Today I am utterly stunned to see that the video has been viewed eight million times and liked by 900,000 people.
And the messages are flooding in — I have literally thousands of them, most from complete strangers — many of them positive but a proportion that are negative. I know Adam has done nothing wrong. How could they possibly suggest that the dance would warrant me breaking up with him?
People seem to forget that we’re real people, not fictional characters, when they make these comments. They are hard to bear and I burst into tears at the cruelty of the comments. I’m just grateful that George is too young to understand what’s going on, but also sad that he’s now seeing me so upset.
MEET KATYA FOR DINNER — WE DON’T TALK TANGO
October 20: Adam has been so strong and supportive, but he’s also confused that he’s being accused of something he didn’t do and really struggling to know how to navigate it.
It can’t be easy for his dance partner either so, after they finish rehearsing, George and I go to meet him and Katya for dinner and have a couple of glasses of wine at a lovely gastropub.
It’s nice to get to know Katya and make up my own mind about her — away from the pernicious influence of internet trolls. She’s so warm and friendly, and George adores her. We don’t talk about people’s reactions to the tango. The backlash has been so unpleasant for all of us that we’d rather just enjoy the evening.
BIG FUSS OVER HIS TROUSERS
October 23/24: A new scandal! Everyone is talking about Adam’s trousers and accusing wardrobe staff of making them tighter each week. TV presenter Victoria Coren says, suggestively, on Twitter: ‘He’s going to need some help getting out of those trousers’ and other women start commenting about his muscular thighs.
Do I feel jealous? Of course not! In fact, seeing these women professing love for Adam, and his bottom, makes me smile — and I’m even prouder to call him mine.
‘There’s no denying it’s a bit awkward seeing my partner getting up close and personal with another woman, especially on live TV, in front of millions of people’
Give me this dialogue, over last week’s onslaught, any day.
Adam also gets a standing ovation from the audience — hurrah — but the judges seem less impressed with his samba and he ends up third from bottom.
ADAM HUGS KATYA: THE RUMOURS START AGAIN
October 30/31: Adam is so excited to be doing the Viennese waltz, his first slow ballroom dance. I don’t want to let him know I’m worried but I think the judges and audience prefer the more up-tempo routines from him and Katya.
And, aargh, he’s in the bottom two and the dance off, against Loose Woman Judi Love. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when he survives to dance another week.
Later a photograph emerges online of Adam and Katya hugging in a car park, following rehearsals. Adam and I share the article with each other and laugh. The implication is that it’s romantic and it should be a ‘huge blow’ to me. I realise how easily things can be blown out of proportion.
DANCE-OFF WITH TILLY? HE HAS NO CHANCE
November 7: I’m at a bonfire party with friends and we all huddle around my phone, in the garden, to watch Strictly.
Adam and Katya do a jive, to Little Bitty Pretty One originally by Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers. Although I feel sick when they end up in the bottom two, competing against Tilly Ramsay in the dance-off, we both knew from the start, it was unlikely he would win. Fingers crossed for tomorrow night’s result.
IT’S OVER! DO WE NEED TO GO TO COUNSELLING?
November 8: Adam is out! Oh my God, it’s hard seeing him cry on national television, and not being there to give him a hug. When we speak he’s as shocked as me by the tears — he’s not a crier!
Adam’s mum suggests the result was a fix. There’s a lot of motherly love there — she thinks he’s the best at everything — and if George is ever in that position I’ll no doubt feel the same.
I have to admit, as his partner and the mother of his child, while I’m devastated for him and Katya, I’m also a bit relieved it’s over. It was a lot to deal with, a circus at times, and Adam is long overdue a break.
It upsets me that people assume I’m delighted for Adam and Katya’s journey to come to an end.
‘People seem to forget that we’re real people, not fictional characters, when they make these comments. They are hard to bear and I burst into tears at the cruelty of the comments’
People are suggesting online that I’m happy they’re no longer spending time together — but in fact I can’t wait to invite Katya over for dinner.
I’m upset and angry on Katya’s behalf and I want her and Adam to remain friends and for her to be in our lives for a long time.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor says her husband had counselling during her stint on Strictly in 2013 — they were uncomfortable with all the talk of her and dancer Brendan Cole being a ‘couple’ — and I totally sympathise with them.
The most difficult part of this has been nothing to do with Adam and Katya’s friendship, but the pressures that come from all the rumours and things people write on social media. It has been more challenging than either of us could have predicted.
I think as a family we’d all agree, compared with Strictly, The Olympics was a breeze.
As told to Helen Carroll