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Strictly launch: Black Country's Ellie Simmonds and Richie Anderson paired up with dancers

Two Black Country stars have put on their dancing shoes for the launch of the 20th series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Ellie Simmonds and Richie Anderson
Ellie Simmonds and Richie Anderson

Delayed by a week due to the Queen's funeral, Strictly kicked off its latest series on Friday night to pair up the 15 famous faces with their dance partners.

Five time Paralympic medallist swimmer Ellie Simmonds, was the first celebrity to be paired up - with Ukrainian dancer and choreographer Nikita Kuzmin.

Ellie, who was born in Aldridge, said: "Doing Strictly, it's something totally different. I'm bursting with excitement, I can't wait to start dancing.

"I have dwarfism, and it just means short stature, short in height, so it means my limbs don't grow in the same way an average height person's would.

"Yes I'm small, but I can do absolutely anything the same as anyone else. I'm excited to dive in and make a splash on the Strictly dance floor."

The Paralympic champion added: "It means everything - to represent not just dwarfism but disability in general.

"For me to go out of my comfort zone, to do something I've never done before. Dancing is for all, isn't it?

"Yes, I'll have to adapt, but just to be out there every Saturday night doing something like dancing - I'm so so proud."

BBC Radio Two presenter Richie Anderson hails from Smethwick and was thrilled to be paired up with last year's champion, Giovanni Pernice.

Giovanni won over the hearts of the nation last year with celebrity partner and EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who was the first deaf person to compete in the show.

Richie, who hosts a Strictly-themed cocktail party every year, said: "Working on the Breakfast show is just so much fun, and one of the reasons I'm excited about doing Strictly is because I can take the Radio Two listeners on this journey with me.

"I mean, admittedly, they're not expecting much, but it's going to be a laugh.

"I cannot wait to do the Latin dances. I'm doing it now, I don't need teaching do I really?

"People keep saying to me, how do you feel about the costumes, the sequins - that's just me on a Tuesday on the weekly shop. I'm gonna Strictlify Strictly. Bring it on, I'm ready for it."

The celebrities will perform their first dance on Saturday night, live on BBC One.

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