While this year has been different in so many ways, one thing remains the same: Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens! The popular dancing programme has returned with a bang (and plenty of sparkle), and is now in its eighteenth series. While Strictly Come Dancing betting odds predict comedian Bill Bailey (and his partner, Oti Mabuse) to lift the glitterball trophy at the end of the series, whatever happened to the early winners of the show? Let’s go back as far as 2004, when Strictly broke onto our Saturday night screens and find out.
2004: Natasha Kaplinsky
The newsreader, TV presenter and journalist was the inaugural winner of Strictly Come Dancing. Paired with Brendan Cole, Kaplinsky went from being in the bottom on week three to lifting the trophy, ahead of EastEnders’ actor Christopher Parker and his partner, Hanna Karttunen. She went on to co-present the second series, which also aired in 2004, before returning for several special edition shows. She was awarded an OBE in 2017.
2004: Jill Halfpenny
The actress, probably most famous for playing Kate in EastEnders, was the winner of the second series. Halfpenny was coupled with Darren Bennett and beat Denise Lewis and her partner, Ian Waite to the trophy. The couple were safe every week, and great value for their win. Their score of 40 for the jive, remains the highest score in history. Since appearing on Strictly, Halfpenny has stayed in TV, but has also had a very successful theatre career, starring in Calendar Girls and Legally Blonde.
2005: Darren Gough
Gough was partnered with Lilia Kopylova, and defeated fellow sports star, athlete Colin Jackson and his partner, Erin Boag, in the final to lift the trophy. His Strictly journey wasn’t without its hiccups, as the duo were among the lowest scorers in week one, but remained safe week after week. Gough returned to cricket after his dancefloor success, eventually retiring from the sport in 2008. He came back to the ballroom, winning two Christmas specials and since 2009, has been a presenter on radio channel Talk Sport.
2006: Mark Ramprakash
In 2006, Ramprakash followed suit and became the second cricketer to win the glitterball trophy. The batsman and Karen Hardy won the series, ahead of Matt Dawson and Kopylova. Again, their journey wasn’t without hitches and the couple became the first to re-start a routine after ‘Ramps’ microphone got caught on Hardy’s dress – yet they still received the highest score of the night! He retired from playing cricket in 2012, before moving on to a coaching career – and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2013 New Year honours for his services to the sport.
2007: Alesha Dixon
She rose to fame as a member of girl group, Mis-Teeq, but Dixon is probably the most successful of all the Strictly winners. She won the 2007 series, when paired with Matthew Cutler – beating actor Matt Di Angelo and his professional partner Flavia Cacace, to lift the glitterball trophy. After appearing on Strictly, her solo career took-off and she’s been appearing on our TV screens ever since. She returned to the ballroom as a judge (2009-11), as well as judging Britain’s Got Talent (2012-present) and presenting numerous other TV shows.