Former Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer AJ Pritchard claims that ‘natural born dancer’ John Whaite, who has impressed on the show so far, is his favourite alongside Rhys Stephenson to be crowned champion.

The skilled choreographer discussed last week’s ‘Movie Week’ on Strictly and believes that celebrity baker Whaite has what it takes to go all the way and take the Glitterball trophy this year.

“I 100% see John (Whaite) and Johannes (Radebe) in the top three,” said Pritchard. “John has stood out as a natural-born dancer for me, and with his ability to physically do what is required of him. I’m really intrigued to see the way he’s going to progress because he’s been given dances that are very suited to him, so when we see something that’s even softer it will challenge him.

“One week can’t really carry you the whole way. It comes down to who is the better dancer at the end of the day, so even if you don’t get the highest score, you can still be in a very good place to make that final. After scoring a 10, Rhys (Stephenson) is going to stay consistent, which is key. It’s not just a sprint, but a marathon of a competition.

“I can definitely see AJ (Odudu) in the top three too, with the likes of her Latin and Ballroom performances. Her ability to hold the neckline is only going to get better, and her ability to see the storyline for each dance is amazing too. I can see that she sees the dance before the music starts and that’s so rare to see, especially so early on (in the show).”

AJ also reserved praise for contestant Adam Peaty, the Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer, and his partner Katya Jones. He believes that they’ve had a tough start to the show with difficult dance routines and expects more to come from the athlete in the coming weeks.

“Because they got all the really hard ones out of the way early, it should get a bit easier for them,” said Pritchard. “Adam (Peaty) has already done the Cha Cha Cha, which is a physically hard dance for him, and I thought he did an amazing job of the Rumba. It was very clean, with very precise lines. He definitely deserved a better score.

“He’s in a great position with an Argentine Tango next. He’s physically strong enough to help Katya with some fantastic lifts. He’s probably the one I’m most excited to see coming up this week.”

And AJ admitted he’s also eager to see how Sara Davies performs this week, citing her warm personality as something he loves to see on Strictly.

“Sara always puts a smile on my face,” he said with his own smile. “That personality is like she’s won the lottery and it’s going to get her a long way in this competition. Let us see more of that!”

This week’s scores from the Strictly judges drew criticism from fans of the show on social media, and AJ agreed that some of the results left him surprised.

He said: “Dan Walker did make quite a lot of mistakes in his Foxtrot, but with an entertainment show like Strictly Come Dancing, what is really important is he didn’t let the mistakes wreck the rest of the performance. I understand why Shirley Ballas gave him a seven, but he did not deserve a three from Craig Revel Horwood.”

“In the dance-off, I would have saved Katie McGlynn. Her ability was better, her form was stronger, and the choreography was harder than Judi Love’s dance. Over the weeks, Anton Du Beke has obviously saved both of the people that have now gone, which shows how close it is.”

AJ also looked ahead to this week’s show, and with Tom Fletcher’s first Ballroom dance coming up, he offered advice to the McFly star ahead of a crucial week.

“I know Amy (Dowden) will be working on Tom’s standing leg being bent so that he can extend the other leg for moving forward or back. That’s the secret to success in Ballroom dances, but especially the slow Foxtrot.”