Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock said it had been “an absolute honour” to be the first disabled person to compete on Strictly Come Dancing as he became the latest victim of the dance-off.
The athlete thanked everyone for treating him “as an equal” after he lost out to Debbie McGee and became the eighth star to depart the dancefloor during the special episodes at Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom.
McGee and her professional partner Giovanni Pernice performed their samba to a Spice Girls medley of Wannabe/Who Do You Think You Are? for a second time, while Peacock and Oti Mabuse performed their tango to Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics in a bid to remain in the competition.
After the judges unanimously decided to save McGee and Pernice, Peacock said he had “massively” enjoyed his time on the show.
He added: “I think it’s been an absolute honour to be the first disabled person and I want to thank each and every one of you for judging me as an equal. That’s what I want.
“You’ve been critical with me and I want that criticism; and I think that’s fantastic and hope it paves the way for more people to come through and I think they may be able to stick their bum under a bit better than me.”
Gesturing to Mabuse, he said: “I need to say an absolutely gigantic thank you to this woman for pushing me because she knows what I’m capable of.
“Her choreography has been outstanding, and for putting up with me, pinching me, biting me – thank you so much.”
Mabuse added: “This has been one of the most life-changing things that could ever happen to me.
“Jonnie is not only an inspiration but he represents so much more. If anybody wants to do anything, if you put your mind to it then you can achieve it and that’s what he represents.”
Judge Craig Revel Horwood chose to save McGee and Pernice, citing their “technical cleanliness and outstanding performance skill”.
Darcey Bussell said it was a difficult decision because both couples had made such improvements but backed McGee and Pernice for “giving a technically more competent performance”.
Bruno Tonioli added: “Let me say, they both did great jobs, great performances, very different, very effective but I have to save the couple who I think overall is much stronger and for that reason I save Debbie and Giovanni.”
Head judge Shirley Ballas confirmed she agreed with the rest of the panel.
Saturday night’s show saw Alexandra Burke and partner Gorka Marquez top the leaderboard for a second week running after scoring 39 for their arcade-themed quickstep.
McGee and Pernice collected 33 points for their performance, which Tonioli labelled a “great tribute to pop icons”.
Peacock, who was in last week’s dance-off, scored 26 points.
Scottish comedian Susan Calman ended the night at the bottom of the leaderboard with 25 points after a paso doble with partner Kevin Clifton based on the final dance of film Strictly Ballroom.