Mil­lions will watch Pot­ter­ies-born pro­fes­sional AJ Pritchard bid for a place in the Strictly grand fi­nal tonight. Proud dad Adrian told LOUISE EL­LIOTT how he hopes the city will make him and part­ner Lau­ren Stead­man one of the fan­tas­tic four

The Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE -

THE proud par­ents of Strictly Come Danc­ing star AJ Pritchard are urg­ing the pub­lic to get be­hind the Stoke-on-trent dancer – as he pre­pares to take part in the semi-fi­nal of the gru­elling com­pe­ti­tion this evening.

AJ and his part­ner, Bri­tish Par­a­lympic ath­lete Lau­ren Stead­man, right, are to per­form the tango and samba for a chance to win a place in the fi­nal.

Last week­end, they fin­ished bot­tom of the leader­board, de­spite im­press­ing the judges with their clas­sic waltz – in­spired by South Pa­cific – for Mu­si­cals Week but still got through thanks to the pub­lic.

AJ and Lau­ren, who was born miss­ing her lower right arm, scored an im­pres­sive 35 points, with Bruno To­nioli say­ing their per­for­mance was a “re­turn to form”. Fel­low judge Craig Revel Hor­wood, gushed: “Ball­room re­ally is your strength.”

Now AJ’S par­ents – Adrian and Deb­bie Pritchard – are urg­ing the pub­lic to again show their sup­port for their old­est son, who was born in Stoke-on-trent and grew up in Sneyd Green.

Adrian said: “This series of Strictly has been a big chal­lenge for AJ as he has had to change

the chore­og­ra­phy for Lau­ren’s dis­abilty. He has had to ad­just his body pos­ture and when they do the lifts he has had to de­velop those lifts.

“It has been very, very dif­fi­cult for both of them but they have both done tremen­dously well.

“AJ finds Lau­ren ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble – the way she is very in­de­pen­dent and copes ex­tremely well. He is truly amazed by her and has such a lot of re­spect for her.”

AJ reg­u­larly re­turns to his home­town to see his grand­par­ents, who still live in Sneyd Green. His dad is from Blur­ton and his mum grew up in Sneyd Green, although they now live in Cheshire where they run their own dance school.

Adrian and Deb­bie will be in the Strictly au­di­ence tonight to cheer their son on. “AJ and Lau­ren are so grate­ful for all the sup­port they have re­ceived from the pub­lic over the last few weeks - they have had tremen­dous back­ing,” said Adrian.

“They have both worked very, very hard so it’s lovely for them to get that sup­port. They know they are in the hands of the pub­lic and as long as they keep try­ing and work­ing hard then we hope the pub­lic – and Stoke-on-trent – will con­tinue to sup­port them.”

HIGH HOPES: Lau­ren and AJ in ac­tion on the series.

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