INTERVIEW: Mark Foster on Strictly Come Dancing

ST NEOTS Olympic swimmer, Mark Foster says he really will keep dancing , one of the catchphrases of the hit BBC One television show, Strictly Come Dancing, despite being voted off the programme at the weekend. Mark, who had never danced a step before he

ST NEOTS' Olympic swimmer, Mark Foster says he really will "keep dancing", one of the catchphrases of the hit BBC One television show, Strictly Come Dancing, despite being voted off the programme at the weekend.

Mark, who had never danced a step before he was invited on to the show, said he had hoped to keep in-step right to the end of the series and possibly keep dancing from then on.

However, it was not meant to be and the 6ft 7in tall swimmer was voted off after finishing in the last two, alongside GMTV presenter Andrew Castle, in Saturday night's competition.

His paso doble scored just 16 points out of a maximum of 40 and he became the sixth celebrity to be voted off the show.

When he spoke to The Hunts Post on Monday, Mark said: "I was never going to be the best but I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be. I really enjoyed the show and being the sixth off isn't too bad. I was hoping for eight weeks or maybe even 10. But, someone has to go and this week it was my turn.

"I could have gone in the first week, so I'm happy."

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He credited his partner, Hayley Holt, with bringing him out of his shell.

"The first week was terrifying. It really was entering into the unknown. Our first dance was a waltz and I was so nervous. It is nerve-wracking having to perform in front of a live crowd. I have always wanted to free-fall out of a plane and I think dancing in front of an audience was as frightening as that at the beginning but now I just go out there and enjoy myself. "

After being told by the judges that he needed acting lessons, Mark had a session with West End star John Barrowman.

"He told me to go out there and perform. I had to look aggressive for the tango and the paso doble. You have to be the bull fighter."

The Olympic medallist, who led out the British team at Beijing Olympics in July, said he had been nervous in a way he never was before he swims. "Dancing really pushed me out of my comfort zone." He and partner, Hayley Holt, were in the dance off earlier in the series after their tango.

He said the training for Strictly Come Dancing, which he did on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at a studio in St Neots, caused muscle aches and headaches. He said Hayley, who also choreographs their dances, was very strict.

"I called her Miss Whiplash but she had to be. She persevered and she was very patient. She did lose her rag but she had to sometimes. The training was hard, there is the physical aspect and the mental aspect, you don't just have to do the steps and remember the steps you have to perform the dance to the audience. The professionals make it look so effortless and easy."

Mark said he had already been friends with some of the other contestants on Strictly, including Lisa Snowden and Jodie Kidd, but all of them were now "like a family".

"Everyone is routing for everyone else to do well," he said.

"We all have something in common from doing this show. We are one big team and we go through the same highs and lows."

On Wednesday last week, Mark took time out from dance practice to visit St Neots schools, Crosshall Juniors and St Neots Community College.

After a talk to pupils, he said: "I hope I can try to inspire and motivate the students and encourage them to accept and face challenges."

He said: "I would absolutely love to carry on dancing. I'm doing a charity 'dance-off' in London on Thursday, but who knows after that?"

Mark, who at 38 was the oldest member in Team GB's Beijing swimming squad, is arguably one of Britain's most successful swimmers, with six World titles to his name. And he told The Hunts Post that he hasn't ruled out competing in London in four years time.

He said: "London 2012 for me would be all about the journey, although the story would be all about me being 42 years old!"

He said he was looking forward to swimming after not going near a pool for the two months he has been working on Strictly Come Dancing.

He said: "I love swimming, I find just being in the water is so, so relaxing."

He has ruled himself out of next year's World Championships but is aiming to compete in the Europeans in December 2009.