Annabel Croft says Strictly helps her to grieve loss of her husband

Annabel Croft, 57, insists Strictly Come Dancing helps her to ‘be in the moment’ as she grieves the loss of her husband Mel Coleman, 60, to cancer

  • Strictly Come Dancing 2023 line-up: All the celebrity contestants confirmed for the BBC competition 

Annabel Croft has told how Strictly Come Dancing has helped her to ‘be in the moment’ as she grieves her husband Mel Coleman after he died from cancer earlier this year.

The former tennis player, 57, is taking part in the current series of the BBC ballroom dance contest with her professional partner Johannes Radebe, 36.

Her late husband and father to their three children Charlie, Amber and Lilly, died earlier this year, aged 60, a few weeks after he was diagnosed with stage three cancer.

The tragedy is what inspired her to take part in the competition and she insists it has helped take her mind off her difficulties at times. 

Annabel told the Mirror: ‘I just love the fact that it just takes you away to a different place, trying something completely different, but also try and let go and try to be in the moment. We’re trying to get there, I don’t think I’ve got there yet.

Overcoming heartache: Annabel Croft, 57, has told how Strictly Come Dancing has helped her to ‘be in the moment’ as she grieves her husband Mel Coleman, 60, after he died from cancer (Annabel pictured on Strictly last month)

Devastating: Her late husband and father to their three children Charlie, Amber and Lilly, died earlier this year, aged 60, a few weeks after he was diagnosed with stage three cancer (Annabel and Mel pictured in June 2021)

‘But try to feel the music and start to, once you’ve got the steps, then just to let go of everything and just dance and just be free in your spirit. And it is very joyful. It does take me back to my childhood a little bit.’

Former America’s Cup yachtsman Mel passed away just two months after he started complaining of stomach pain.

And Annabel recently told Lorraine Kelly during an appearance on her ITV1 show how dancing has helped her rest her brain from ‘thinking too many dark thoughts’.

She said: ‘It’s been a nice distraction from grief.

‘It’s been nice to do something joyful and use my body and try to rest my brain from thinking too many dark thoughts.’

The radio presenter previously revealed she was in a dark place following Mel’s passing and she cried every day in the weeks following the loss.

Before Strictly, she said she hoped the gruelling training schedule would help take her mind off the heartache and help her ‘find some joyfulness’.

Since being on the show, Annabel has revealed that her spirits are higher and the competition has allowed her to get stuck into a new challenge.

Duo: The tennis star, pictured with her new professional dancing partner, Johannes Radebe, revealed how dancing has helped her rest her brain from ‘thinking too many dark thoughts’

Annabel said her Strictly partner Johannes is ‘the most amazing human being’ as she applauded his kindness and patience.

Annabel said: ‘I have struck gold. Johannes is just the most amazing human being.

‘You have the most amazing energy, incredible kindness and patience. You are an unbelievable dancer, but also an unbelievable teacher.’

But her time on the dancefloor will be bittersweet without her husband of 31 years there to cheer her on.

‘He always loved the show and he used to cry watching it,’ she said previously. ‘So I’m completely heartbroken that he’s not here to watch with me.’

Just weeks after Mel’s death, Annabel was bravely back at work, conducting post-match interviews as part of the BBC’s coverage of the Wimbledon finals and overseeing the ceremony in which winners Marketa Vondrousova and Carlos Alcaraz received their trophies.

Mel, a successful investment banker who took part in the America’s Cup and more recently ran a tennis school with his wife, was noted for his apparently perfect health and, like Annabel, enjoyed an active outdoors lifestyle.

After Covid lockdowns, the two of them converted an old delivery van into a mobile home and took it around the country and into Europe on walking holidays.

Long-term love: The couple pictured together in 1996 – their paths crossed quite by chance when Annabel was at a crisis point in her life

Tough time: Annabel had been on the tennis tour for nearly six years and was lonely, stressed and lost by the demands of competing when she met Mel – Pictured: At Wimbledon in 1987

Shortly after he died, Annabel said: ‘My beloved husband Mel passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning after a short battle with cancer.

‘My family and I are completely heartbroken and ask for privacy at this very sad time.’

Earlier this year Annabel, a former British number one, recalled that her path crossed with Mel’s quite by chance when she was at a crisis point.

Aged 21, she was at the US Open having a pep talk from fellow player John Newcombe, who suggested that she should think about what she wanted to do with her life as she seemed unhappy.

She had been on the tennis tour for nearly six years and was lonely, stressed and lost by the demands of incessantly competing.

‘As we were having this chat, I got a text from my mother saying the BBC production office in Belfast were asking whether I’d be interested in filming a programme about yacht racing.

‘I’d never been on a yacht before, but it ended up with me, Eamonn Holmes and Peter Skellern going off to Guernsey to shoot a programme where we learnt how to race a yacht.

‘Mel, who had just got back from Australia after the America’s Cup, was one of the yachtsmen and that is how we met.

‘After a day’s filming we’d all go to the pub, have dinner – it sounds weird, but I’d never really done that – and I remember thinking, gosh this is really fun and normal, and I want a bit more of this rather than getting up and putting on a tracksuit and stressing about whether my backhand is working today.’

They married six years later.

Strictly Come Dancing 2023: Who are the couples?

 Nigel Harman and Katya Jones

 Bobby Brazier and Diane Buswell

Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe

 Zara McDermott and Graziano Di Prima

 Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice

 Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington

 Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Lauren Oakley

 Angela Scanlon and Carlos Gu

 Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola

 Adam Thomas and Luba Mushtuk

 Jody Cundy and Jowita Przystał

 Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin

Nikita Kanda and Gorka Marquez 

 Les Dennis and Nancy Xu

 Eddie Kadi and Karen Hauer







Angela Rippon

Age: 78 

Profession: Journalist 

Angela says: ‘Having been a fan of Strictly since day one, and as a former presenter of Come Dancing, this will be quite an adventure for me. A scary one, considering I’m about to be 79. But I’m looking forward to the challenge, and perhaps being able to learn to dance the Argentine Tango.’

Amanda Abbington

Age: 49

Profession: Actress

Amanda says: ‘I’m thrilled to have been asked to do Strictly. I’m actually really shy and self-conscious so this will be a great opportunity for me to overcome those things.’

Layton Williams

Age: 28

Profession: Actor

Layton says: ‘Absolutely buzzing to confirm that I will be taking part in THE most iconic dance competition in the UK! It’s time to bring it to the Ballroom. So excited to learn new skills from the best. Bring on the sequins… ALL the sequins!’

 Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Age: 53

Profession: Journalist

Krishnan says: ‘I’m surprised, delighted and slightly confused to find myself taking part in Strictly on the basis of ‘You only live once!’ I can’t wait to start learning to dance, but I am slightly worried about my general decrepitude.’

Eddie Kadi

Age: 40

Profession: Comedian and radio presenter

Eddie says: ‘WOW. Anyone who knows me, understands that music and dance is so important and central to who I am. I’m so unbelievably proud and honoured that Strictly and the BBC have asked me to join the 2023 Team. I promise you, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. This is going to be a VIBE.

Angela Scanlon

Age: 39

Profession: TV presenter

Angela says: ‘I’m not particularly fit, I’ve no idea how my pelvic floor is going to react to this dancing. I’ve never done any dances apart from drunken jiving at a wedding!’ 

Zara McDermott 

Age: 26

Profession: Documentary maker and former Love Island star

Zara says: ‘I am so excited to be joining the world of Strictly! I grew up watching it every year with my nan and she was the biggest Strictly fan. We would dance around the house and I have such fond memories of that time in my life.’

Adam Thomas 

Age: 34 

Profession: Actor and presenter

Adam says: ‘I can’t dance to save my life but I’m buzzing to learn and have a good laugh with my pro. Get me on that dance floor…I can’t wait!’

Nikita Kanda 

Age: 27

 Profession: Radio and TV presenter

Nikita says: ‘I can’t believe I’m going to be on Strictly. This is a dream come true. I’m still pinching myself. I don’t think it will properly sink in until I step onto the dancefloor. I can’t wait to get glammed up and get out there. Throw the glitter on me!’

Ellie Leach 

Age: 22

Profession:  Coronation Street star

Ellie says: ‘It still doesn’t feel real that I’m going to be doing Strictly!! It’s always been a dream of mine so I guess dreams really do come true!!!!’

Jody Cundy 

Age: 44

Profession:  Paralympic champion 

Jody says: ‘I’m looking forward to the challenge and pushing myself way out of my comfort zone, especially as I’m always last onto the dance floor. Can’t wait to get stuck in, bring on the glitter and sequins.’

Bobby Brazier 

Age: 20

Profession:  EastEnders star and model 

Bobby says: ‘I’m so excited to be part of the Strictly line up, I can’t wait to start training like a professional dancer and adding a few moves to my locker. I’m looking forward to performing in-front of everyone.’

Nigel Harman 

Age: 49 

Profession:  Actor

Nigel says: ‘I’m amazed, excited, and terrified to be doing Strictly. As an armchair fan of the show I have watched in awe as people have twirled and gyrated across the screen. And now it’s my turn…..gulp!’

Annabel Croft 

Age: 57 

Profession:  Broadcaster and ex tennis player

Annabel says: ‘I have always loved watching Strictly and can’t quite believe I’m going to be part of this magical show – swapping tennis balls for glitter balls and looking forward to finding some joyfulness in the process.’

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