JJ Chalmers and his dance partner Amy Dowling – the people of West Dunbartonshire have been flooding the telephone lines to support them in Strictly.
Strictly star John James Chalmers was born in Edinburgh in 1986 just after his parents had moved the family there from Renton in West Dunbartonshire, where his father, John, was the minister at Renton Trinity Parish Church and his mother was a teacher in a local primary school.
The son of not just a Church of Scotland Minister, JJ’s father was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and also the Clerk to the Assembly. And he is now one of the chaplains to the Queen.
JJ attended Strathallan High School in Perthshire before obtaining a Bachelors of Education from Edinburgh University in 2009.
The ex Marine served as a reserve from the age of 18, throughout his time as a Design and Technology teacher at Balerno High School in the capital, until he became a full-time soldier in the Royal Marines in 2010.
He is so proud of his regiment that he wore their green beret and full uniform, specially tailor made for him, in a previous round of Strictly.
This coming Saturday, JJ has said he will be wearing a kilt but we’ll have to wait and watch him trip the light fantastic with Amy to see what tartan he chooses.
He has lots to choose from since there’s the Colquhoun for Loch Lomondside, the MacFarlane for Helensburgh, the Lennox for Dumbarton …
JJ lives with his wife, Kornelia Chitursko and two children, Hayley and James in Dunfermline, Fife, but because of Covid he has had to take three months away from home in training with his dance partner.
How does he feel about being on Strictly?
The Renton man – although he wasn’t born there he and his family are tremendously proud of their connections with the village and the friends they made there, previously admitted he isn’t a die-hard fan of the show.
However, the excitement of taking part and bringing some light-hearted fun to television screens, in what has been a dreich year for everyone, has made isolating away from his wife and children worth it.
He says there is a hint of nostalgia in the set up of this year’s Strictly, with contestants, dancers and crew isolating together for the 12-week duration of the show.
JJ told The Scotsman: “Funnily enough the military is quite similar cos we’re a little bit tribal. We had this healthy competition between cap badges and regiments but at the same time we’re actually all on the same side and here we’re all part of this Strictly bubble right now and want to make the best show.”
“You know I get such amazing messages from people and it’s so great to know that it’s folks close to home, and I miss Scotland, and I can’t wait to go home, but at the same time I don’t want to go home too soon.”
What happened to him in Afghanistan?
As a Royal Marine Commando, Chalmers was wounded in battle in 2011, which resulted in a crushed eye socket, burst eardrums, injuries to his arms and legs and scars to his face and body. He also lost two fingers.
The 33-year-old remained in the Marines while receiving intense rehabilitation until his departure in 2016.
Since his horrific ordeal, he has gone on to support the rehabilitation of soldiers and raise awareness of army veterans and their physical and mental struggles.
He has paid tribute to his gran for his approach to life since the accident, explaining in a previous interview with The Scotsman that she always advised him to “get on with it”.
He told the Scotsman: “What you should do is have that big dream. But actually, you need to break it down into small parts, think of building a wall.
“You know you want a wall at the end of the day, but actually just go out and lay a brick every single day as perfectly as you possibly can.
“And then one day, you can take a step back and look at the big picture and realise that you’ve actually achieved your dream.”
What have been JJ’s biggest achievements so far?
The Strictly contestant told The Scotsman he tries to ignore any feeling of defeat when facing adversity, which has stood him in good stead when chasing his sporting victories.
He won a gold medal as captain of the trike team in the Men’s IRecB1 Recumbent Circuit Race, and took home two bronze medals for the 1-mile time trial and 4× 100m mixed relay race.
He said: “You need to dream big, but at the same time don’t allow yourself to be defeated when something doesn’t go your way. You need failures, to be able to come back stronger.”
Following his cycling success, JJ became an ambassador for the games and a patron for Help for Heroes before presenting Channel 4’s Paralympic coverage in 2016. Later that year he also hosted the Lord Mayor’s Show on BBC One.
He has since presented sports segments and other features for the BBC and held the presenting role for the Invictus Games in 2017.
Could he be the next Scot to win strictly?
JJ told The Scotsman that his dream is to bring home the glitter ball, following in the footsteps of Scots actor Joe McFadden in 2017.
The presenter has been coupled up with Strictly professional, Amy Dowden and so far has wooed the audience with his foxtrot, waltz, and the Paso Doble and Quickstep.
He said: “I haven’t really allowed myself to think about winning the thing; it really is a case of just trying to get from week to week.
“It’s interesting because you kind of have to put the success of last week behind you and start from fresh, so yes you can put the failures behind you, but you also need to put the successes behind you.
“I have the big goal of wanting to make the final and see what happens. But actually, you need to get through every single step.”
“I’m loving everything about it, whether it’s, you know, learning a new skill or spending time with my amazing dance partner and the rest of the crew.
“I don’t just mean the other celebs and dancers, I mean from the bottom to the top, everybody just loves the job that they’re doing and they get to do their job at the moment so I feel very privileged.
“I just want to keep turning up every Monday and having another week at this.”