Paralympian Libby Clegg has revealed that her Dancing On Ice partner Mark Hanretty is allergic to her guide dog.
Blind sprinter Clegg, who competed for Team GB at the Paralympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016 in 100m and 200m events, is the first contestant with sight loss to take part in the ITV show.
She and Hanretty have overcome the challenges to get to the final six on the ice-skating show – but they still have to deal with professional skater Hanretty’s allergy to Clegg’s guide dog Hatti.
He said: “Hatti’s adorable. I really like Hatti.
“The only sad part for me is that I’m actually a little bit allergic to Hatti!”
Clegg, who has Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy and is registered blind, decided to be paired with the black retriever/labrador cross five years ago because she was tired of having to explain herself to others.
“Because I don’t really look visually impaired, if I bumped into somebody, I felt like I had to give them my life story,” said the Guide Dogs Ambassador.
“Not only that, I was nearly hit by a car on a couple of occasions, so it was a bit dangerous and my family were worried about me. I also walked into a hedge one day, full body.”
She added: “Hatti is invaluable and has supported me to live my life with confidence, independence and on own my own terms.
“Whilst Hatti can’t join me on the ice, she will be supporting me rink-side.”
Clegg, 29, has been a strong contender since early in the current series of Dancing On Ice, topping the leaderboard with 28 out of 40 for her first routine.
She and Hanretty have developed a way of using numbers, sounds and silly words as sound cues to help Clegg through her performances.
She said: “As I can’t see the required skating moves before I try them out, I’m reliant on Mark’s powers of description to guide me through. Trust and communication are a key part of being successful and making the partnership work, and I ask a million questions.
“Also, I can hear whether it sounds right. When you skate well it makes a kind of biting noise on the ice and when you do it badly it makes a scratchy noise, which I hear frequently!”
However, she added that she thinks she might actually have an advantage at times because her lack of vision “makes the twists, turns and spins easier as I don’t get dizzy”.
Scottish skater Hanretty, 34, admitted he was “gobsmacked and terrified in equal measure” when he was first paired with Clegg.
“But being around someone who’s registered blind and yet copes with life so well, there aren’t words to describe how impressed I am with her,” he said.
“Libby is an incredible human being and I feel I couldn’t have been blessed with a better partner.”
For more information about Guide Dogs, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/dancingonice.