Former Dancing on Ice professional skater and reigning champion Alex Murphy claims that this year’s show will be tough to call, but that reality TV star Billie Shepherd is her “dark horse” to take the trophy.

The American figure skater is looking forward to the upcoming series despite not returning to defend her title, having won last year alongside Joe Swash, and has outlined how difficult a task it is for contestants who have never skated before.

“Skating is hard, and I think a lot of people forget that. You have two blades strapped to your feet in front of thousands of people. Then add lights, sound, costumes…if you don’t have any experience with ice-skating, it’s a lot to handle. One little wobble and you could be on your butt in front of the entire UK!

“Building up to the first show is so exciting. Every year you get nervous regardless of how many times you’ve done it, but then slowly it becomes a routine,” she said.

“About halfway through the season you start to feel more comfortable and confident together (with your partner), but at the end of the day you have to remember your celebrity doesn’t always have that confidence, so it is up to you to carry them.”

She claims it’s also up to the professionals to be able to read their partners ahead of a live show and help them handle their nerves.

“I always tried to never let on to my partners when I was nervous. Each person is different and will have a special routine, and you will be able to read them and learn their personalities to know how to deal with them.

“There was one show halfway through last season with Joe (Swash) that I was extremely nervous in as we had had a fall in the dress run. I ended up hiding away from him all day so that he wouldn’t see how stressed out I was! Our job as professionals is to make sure they feel comfortable and safe always.”

And the dazzling dancer also confirmed that each partner had their own pre-show routines to cope with the pressure of the live performances.

She remarked: “I think each pre-routine was different for each partner that I had. Kem (Cetinay) liked his space on show days and I would find him hiding quietly in his dressing room. Brian (McFadden) was lively and excited all the time and you could always hear him in the hallway entertaining all the other celebrities!

“Sometimes Joe and I would hang out together and listen to music or podcasts beforehand to stay away from the noisy pre-show buzz that can make others nervous.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming series, Murphy thinks it’s very difficult to pick out just one celebrity who can be labelled as the clear favourite. However, she does believe that athletes hold an advantage over others given the physical demands of the show.

“Definitely, (it will give them an advantage). For Graham Bell, being an Olympic skier will help. Skiing and skating are quite similar. Knowing that your blades need to always stay parallel is something that the celebrities forget and end up taking some really bad spills! Because of his skiing, Graham will know this, and it will come naturally to him.

“And Colin Jackson, having done the ‘Dancing On Ice Goes Gold’, will definitely give him an advantage as he will know what it feels like to have that buzz of skating on TV and those years of skating experience will have trickled over,” said Murphy.

With all that said, the 30-year-old has picked The Only Way Is Essex star Billie Shepherd as the one to watch for this series, alongside the athletes on the show.

She said: “I think I will give my ‘dark horse’ title to Billie Shepherd. I think that she has a great advantage to win this season. She’s got a huge social media following and I just have a good gut feeling about her!”

Murphy is under no illusions that all the judges on the show need to be wowed in order for the hopeful pairings to reach the final, but she always found that praise from legendary skating pair Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill was special.

“As a skater, my goal was always to impress Jayne and Chris, but to get praise from Ashley (Banjo) and John (Bannerman) is always such an amazing feeling too,” she said. “They bring such a love of entertainment to the show that you always want to please them as well. I feel like John is so honest and makes incredible points with great constructive criticism and I always wanted to get a ‘fabulous’ from him!”

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