Olympic gymnastic sensation Louis Smith never dreamed he’d be rubbing shoulders with pop stars and actors on Strictly – but he’s still going all out to win…
23:24 GMT, 5 October 2012
So, ladies, first the bad news. Louis Smith, our Olympic medal-winning gymnast and possibly the hunkiest heart-throb Strictly Come Dancing has ever signed up, is not planning any topless dances.
This surprisingly modest young man thinks it ‘feels a little undignified.
I don’t want to come across as cheap,’ he laughs, before admitting he might change his mind if he finds himself in the bottom two for several weeks.
Despite his happy-go-lucky demeanour and Olympic-class determination, Louis is a tender thing
And the good news Despite rumours to the contrary, Louis is single and looking for a nice girl to settle down with.
But please, whatever you do, don’t go breaking his heart. Despite his happy-go-lucky demeanour and Olympic-class determination, Louis is a tender thing.
Eighteen months ago he was left devastated when he split from his first love. He lost over a stone, struggled to train and spent many miserable nights crying.
So you can forgive him for being a little cautious when it comes to the girls who are flocking around him now he’s famous.
‘The attention I’m getting from girls is nice but I’m not in a hurry to get attached again,’ he says. ‘I would like to be in a relationship but it scares me. That feeling of getting your heart ripped in half; it’s awful. I want to be in love like I was before. But when you’ve had your heart broken and it’s taken a long time to put it back together you never quite let go.’
Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace have been perfecting their moves
He likes girls who don’t know who he is. ‘I can warm to someone much more easily if I know they’re not talking to me because of who I am. I try to be very respectful. I want to be different from most men – I try to be a gentleman.’
Louis missed winning gold on the
pommel horse by a whisker this summer but with a silver and two bronze
medals (he won a bronze with the gymnastics men’s team and an individual
bronze in Beijing four years ago) he’s the most successful male gymnast
in British history. And he’s only 23.
he and his fellow Olympians are famous. But Louis still admits to
feeling a bit of a fraud among the Strictly celebrities. ‘It’s all a bit
crazy,’ he says.
don’t really feel like I belong to this group. Kimberley Walsh just
popped into our rehearsal room to say “Hi”. I’m a gymnast. I wear a
leotard for a living. And now I’ve got someone from Girls Aloud chatting
to me! Everyone’s very nice, but I feel like I have to behave myself
otherwise I’m going to get kicked out of this little group. I feel like
they’re thinking, “Alright, we’ve let you in, but you’re not supposed to
Today Louis has just finished a four-hour session with his partner Flavia Cacace, who he calls ‘the boss’. ‘He’s fabulous,’ she whispers as she twinkles out of the central London studio where they rehearse. He’s certainly got the ambition to win.
‘It would be wrong to say I’m not in it to win it – what would be the point of doing it otherwise’ he asks. ‘But I’m also having a lot of fun.’
Strictly has proved a welcome diversion after London 2012. It’s the first time since he was four that Louis, who grew up in the village of Eye near Peterborough, has not been training.
His Jamaican-born father, Claude, left home when Louis was three and their contact has been sporadic. He had attention deficit disorder as a child and his mother took him to the gym partly to stop him destroying the house. It was gymnastics that made him the young man he is.
‘The thing I loved about gym was it wasn’t repetitive,’ he says. ‘It got my adrenaline going. Gym became like a father figure. It kept me busy, kept me disciplined and respectful.’ Even now he struggles to stay still. As we talk, his arms are up and down, and in his tight vest I can see him constantly flexing his muscles. I don’t think he realises he’s doing it, but those muscles are eye-popping.
Louis would rather date a girl who didn't know who he was
He turned down a choral scholarship at a private school to keep working at gymnastics. But he’s always loved singing and, four years ago, unsuccessfully auditioned for The X Factor.
‘I would never have given up gymnastics but I was curious about the whole experience. I’d always watched it and thought I could do a good job and I got through the first three rounds with producers. But then I appeared in front of the judges and Simon told me to go back to the day job. I don’t blame him – I was awful, shambolic. I don’t think I could have a career in music.’
He’s enjoyed competing from a young age and was European pommel horse champion by 15. He realises now how hard it was for his mother – who he describes as ‘an angel’ – as she scrimped and saved to fund his sport. For a long time he didn’t earn anything from it.
‘It was hard for everyone and when your gear box falls out of your car and you haven’t got the money to pay for a new one you do wonder why you do it. But I always had faith that I could do well.’
He's enjoyed competing from a young age and was European pommel horse champion by 15
Going to the Beijing Olympics and winning bronze changed everything. Suddenly he had sponsorship and people began to take notice of him. But he found being a winner harder than he could ever have expected. ‘I got really depressed after Beijing,’ he reveals.
‘My life completely changed. No one prepares you for that. I went from being just a 19-year-old lad who could go out and do what I wanted, get up to mischief, and nobody would care. Suddenly I became a role model overnight. I had to do all these media things.
'Everyone knew my face in Peterborough. I couldn’t go out. I only left the house to go the gym and I really needed my own space. It was weird. I did well at the Olympics, woke up and everything had completely changed.
‘I had to say goodbye to the last 19 years of my life. When I was growing up there weren’t really any male gymnasts for me to look up to, so I have a sense of responsibility to be that person now, and I’m happy to be that person.’
Louis certainly has big enough shoulders for that responsibility. But it’s not surprising that his favourite thing is not driving his brand-new BMW or talking to new Strictly pal Colin Salmon about his films; it’s being alone. ‘I love my own space,’ he says.
‘I’m quite a reserved person and the thing I love most of all is going home, slouching on the sofa and having absolute silence. If I’m feeling energetic enough I might make a cup of tea. I love it. Love it.’
Strictly Come Dancing is on tonight at 6.30pm on BBC1.