Strictly’s Annabel Croft moved viewers to tears as she paid a heartbreaking tribute to her late husband Mel Croft on Saturday night’s show. 

The former tennis player, 57, cried as she remembered her beloved partner as she danced her Couple’s Choice lyrical routine with professional dancer Johannes Radebe, 36. 

Annabel’s late husband and father to their three children Charlie, Amber and Lilly, died earlier this year, aged 60, a few weeks after he was diagnosed with stage three cancer.

Annabel said: ‘This week it’s Couple’s Choice and we’re dancing a lyrical dance to the song Wings by Birdy. I think this song is definitely a tribute to my husband Mel. It couldn’t be anything other than that. 

‘As soon as we met I was just taken by his massive smile and his great sense of humour. We were supposed to have our 30th wedding anniversary this year and I never ever saw what’s happened coming. 

Devastating: Annabel's late husband Mel Coleman, died earlier this year, aged 60, (pictured in 2021)

Devastating: Annabel's late husband Mel Coleman, died earlier this year, aged 60, (pictured in 2021)

Devastating: Annabel’s late husband Mel Coleman, died earlier this year, aged 60, (pictured in 2021)

‘He got diagnosed on January 31st and he was told he didn’t have very long. I don’t think I could survive without the children.’

Their daughter Lily then told her mother: ‘I don’t think I recognise you from when you first started Strictly to now. You are so amazing now.

‘My dad always loved watching Strictly. He adored watching Johannes. He’s definitely the angel she needed as much as he did too.’ 

Annabel took Johannes to a bench in Richmond Park where she and Mel would walk to every day and sit on.  

Viewers took to X – formerly known as Twitter – to comment on the powerful performance. 

They wrote: ‘I’m in bits. Such a moving and beautiful dance’ and ‘Annabel and Johannes. Couple’s Choice. So emotional, I am in tears. 

‘Watching Annabel Croft dance, like a lot of men pretending I’m not crying. Everyone who’s lost someone was right there. We see ya!’ 

‘Johannes is such a sweet soul’ and ‘Annabel and Johannes – that embrace at the end went on far too long but otherwise a beautiful routine’.  

Viewers took to X - formerly known as Twitter - to comment on the powerful performance.

Viewers took to X - formerly known as Twitter - to comment on the powerful performance.

Viewers took to X – formerly known as Twitter – to comment on the powerful performance.

‘It was a weird scenario. I was about to go out in front of millions of people and be jolly and happy but I was sobbing, thinking: ‘I don’t know where you are, Mel. Where have you gone?’.’

Fans of Strictly will know that former tennis ace Annabel came into the competition from a difficult place.

She was widowed in May after losing her husband to cancer. They had been together for 36 years, and he was her first serious boyfriend. ‘There was never anyone else,’ she said.

Sadness: Annabel previously revealed she 'sobbed' the night before her debut on the show (pictured on their wedding day)

Sadness: Annabel previously revealed she 'sobbed' the night before her debut on the show (pictured on their wedding day)

Sadness: Annabel previously revealed she ‘sobbed’ the night before her debut on the show (pictured on their wedding day)

The radio presenter recently revealed she ‘sobbed’ over her loss the night before her debut on the BBC show in an interview with The Daily Mail.

The one person who could have given her a pep talk and a you-can-do-it hug, as he had done all her adult life, was not there.

‘So I just sat and cried,’ she recalled. ‘Mel was my biggest supporter, my protector. He gave me confidence. He made things right, always had done. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to say: ‘I am really nervous for tomorrow, but I don’t have you to make it OK’.

What was particularly brutal was the speed of it. Mel, a ruggedly healthy former round-the-world yachtsman, went from diagnosis to death in a matter of 16 weeks.

‘It’s unthinkable,’ Annabel said. ‘How can someone disappear in three months? We didn’t even know he was ill.

‘On the day they said ‘Cancer, and it is everywhere’, I just went into total freefall. I was one of those wailing women in the hospital car park.

‘Poor Mel was the one who’d been told he was going to die, and he was comforting me. Three months later, I was picking up a death certificate and our three children were having to process the fact their dad’s name was on there.

‘Our son, Charlie, said it was as if a hand had come down from the sky and plucked Mel out, leaving our family with a gaping hole that will never be filled.’

She said that Mel’s suits — ‘his lovely linen suits that he would wear to Wimbledon’ — are still hanging in the wardrobe. She lifted his toothbrush by mistake the other day and stood, stricken. ‘I should throw it away. I can’t.’

Annabel has been unable to collect his ashes from the crematorium. ‘I know I have to,’ she says. ‘People say it’s a comfort to have them, but I just can’t. Ashes? Mel?

‘I didn’t understand what grief was until now. I didn’t even understand death, had never thought about it. Now I think: ‘God, Mel, you’ve done death. How is that even possible?’ How can I be a widow? We were a team.’

STRICTLY COME DANCING 2023: THE CONTESTANTS’ PROFILES

Angela Rippon

Age: 78 

Profession: Journalist 

Angela says: ‘Having been a fan of Strictly since day one, and as a former presenter of Come Dancing, this will be quite an adventure for me. A scary one, considering I’m about to be 79. But I’m looking forward to the challenge, and perhaps being able to learn to dance the Argentine Tango.’

Amanda Abbington

Age: 49

Profession: Actress

Amanda says: ‘I’m thrilled to have been asked to do Strictly. I’m actually really shy and self-conscious so this will be a great opportunity for me to overcome those things.’

Layton Williams

Age: 28

Profession: Actor

Layton says: ‘Absolutely buzzing to confirm that I will be taking part in THE most iconic dance competition in the UK! It’s time to bring it to the Ballroom. So excited to learn new skills from the best. Bring on the sequins… ALL the sequins!’

Age: 53

Profession: Journalist

Krishnan says: ‘I’m surprised, delighted and slightly confused to find myself taking part in Strictly on the basis of ‘You only live once!’ I can’t wait to start learning to dance, but I am slightly worried about my general decrepitude.’

Age: 40

Profession: Comedian and radio presenter

Eddie says: ‘WOW. Anyone who knows me, understands that music and dance is so important and central to who I am. I’m so unbelievably proud and honoured that Strictly and the BBC have asked me to join the 2023 Team. I promise you, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. This is going to be a VIBE.

Angela Scanlon

Age: 39

Profession: TV presenter

Angela says: ‘I’m not particularly fit, I’ve no idea how my pelvic floor is going to react to this dancing. I’ve never done any dances apart from drunken jiving at a wedding!’ 

Age: 26

Profession: Documentary maker and former Love Island star

Zara says: ‘I am so excited to be joining the world of Strictly! I grew up watching it every year with my nan and she was the biggest Strictly fan. We would dance around the house and I have such fond memories of that time in my life.’

Adam Thomas 

Age: 34 

Profession: Actor and presenter

Adam says: ‘I can’t dance to save my life but I’m buzzing to learn and have a good laugh with my pro. Get me on that dance floor…I can’t wait!’

Age: 22

Profession:  Coronation Street star

Ellie says: ‘It still doesn’t feel real that I’m going to be doing Strictly!! It’s always been a dream of mine so I guess dreams really do come true!!!!’

Age: 20

Profession:  EastEnders star and model 

Bobby says: ‘I’m so excited to be part of the Strictly line up, I can’t wait to start training like a professional dancer and adding a few moves to my locker. I’m looking forward to performing in-front of everyone.’

Nigel Harman 

Age: 49 

Profession:  Actor

Nigel says: ‘I’m amazed, excited, and terrified to be doing Strictly. As an armchair fan of the show I have watched in awe as people have twirled and gyrated across the screen. And now it’s my turn…..gulp!’

Age: 57 

Profession:  Broadcaster and ex tennis player

Annabel says: ‘I have always loved watching Strictly and can’t quite believe I’m going to be part of this magical show – swapping tennis balls for glitter balls and looking forward to finding some joyfulness in the process.’

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