AS judges on Dancing On Ice, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have witnessed almost as many budding romances on their watch as legendary Blind Date host Cilla Black.
And the Olympic skate legends reckon the ITV show’s infamous “curse”, which has seen a series of both contestants and production staff split with previous partners after finding love around the rink, has only boosted its hold over viewers.
They were speaking exclusively to The Sun ahead of Sunday night’s grand final at 6pm, after we revealed how Maura Higgins’ feelings for her Dancing On Ice pro partner Alexander Demetriou had sparked her split with her former Love Island co-star Curtis Pritchard.
Christopher, 61, said: “Romance on ice happens because you get into this bubble and it’s very close, tactile and, more than anything, there is trust that has to go into the celebrity-pro partnerships. On Dancing On Ice we’ve had a lot of partnerships that have come together and people that have stayed together — and a lot of babies — on both the production and cast side.”
Jayne, 62, added: “It’s a good thing so it’s not a curse on the Dancing On Ice side.”
Former EastEnders actor Joe Swash, 38, Paralympic sprinter Libby Clegg, 29, and Perry Kiely, 24, in the expert care of their pro-dancers Alex Murphy, Mark Hanretty and Vanessa Bauer, will do battle for the trophy as the 12th series of the show draws to a close.
Maura and Alexander aside, the latest season has also brought viewers new couple Kevin Kilbane and Brianne Delcourt.
Ex-Everton and Republic of Ireland footballer Kevin, 43, PROPOSED to Canadian Brianne, 39, with a £50,0000 ring last month after a whirlwind two-month romance as dizzying as their spins and lifts. But the lovebirds’ engagement follows a long line of romances on the ice.
Brianne previously dated Coronation Street actor Danny Young, 33, after they met on the 2010 series and became partners in love although not paired in the contest itself.
Ex-England goalie David Seaman, 56, and his partner Frankie Poultney, 47, who he met on the 2008 Dancing On Ice live tour, wed in 2015.
But the most notorious saga saw pro Sylvain Longchambon, 39, fall for Hollyoaks beauty Jennifer Metcalfe, 36, on the 2012 series — before the French hunk then DUMPED her for his 2013 Dancing On Ice partner, Corrie favourite Samia Ghadie, 37. The couple are now married and have a son Yves, four.
Jayne and Christopher spent years batting away rumours they were a couple after their 1984 Winter Olympics gold medal, courtesy of their epic Bolero routine, turned them into the nation’s sweethearts.
In 2013 Chris said on Piers Morgan’s ITV chat show Life Stories that they had “dabbled” in romance — and told of a teenage kiss on the back seat of a bus.
Jayne’s memory was more hazy. She refers to Chris’s revelation as “dabblegate”, having two years earlier claimed the pair feared love would ruin their career.
She said: “We decided very early on that if we had slept together, we couldn’t have skated. I remember somebody saying to me, ‘If you’re dating your skating partner and the relationship breaks down, you won’t have your skating partner’.”
But these days — with him dating ex-skater and former Dancing On Ice judge Karen Barber, 58, since 2011 and Jayne married, with adopted Jessica, 14 and Kieron, 16, to sound engineer husband Phil Christensen — the pair are free of the rumour mill and STILL skating.
Indeed, they are so professional they do not even argue, a feat not many couples who have been together so long can boast. He says: “We’ve been together for 47 years and don’t bicker. It’s longer than some marriages, we would be on our golden anniversary.
Jayne added: “We just roll our eyes at each other from time to time.” But there is one small issue. She said: “The main problem is time-keeping, Chris is always early — I feel like I’m on normal time but he is always way ahead.”
He added: “Normal time for Jayne is ten minutes late. She’s got better as she has got older, I think it’s having children and getting them to school.”
The pair are still deter-mined to keep skating. She said: “It keeps me at a really good level of fitness. I’d like to think we would skate into our eighties — as long as we can, we will. I have people stop me in the street who still enjoy watching me skating.”
Romances aside, the latest Dancing On Ice run also featured the first ever same-sex pairing on a UK dance show.
Steps singer Ian “H” Watkins and pro-skater Matt Evers, both 43, performed together for five weeks until they were eliminated last month. Jayne and Christopher now hope rival BBC1 show Strictly Come Dancing will follow suit. Christopher said: “I don’t see why the move shouldn’t be followed up on Strictly. It’s great that ITV agreed to do it.”
This series also saw model Caprice Bourret, 48, quit the show after she claimed ITV sided with her “bullying” pro-partner Hamish Gaman, 36.
But Christopher and Jayne maintain producers have bent over to ensure cast and crew are well looked after, especially since The Jeremy Kyle Show was cancelled after a guest committed suicide last year.
Christopher said: “Everybody is looked after to the nth degree. After the Jeremy Kyle show tragedy we have seen the duty of care ramped up.” Jayne added: “Everybody is really well looked after, it’s a lovely atmosphere.”
The duo also commend 57-year-old Dancing On Ice host Phillip Schofield’s decision to come out last month. Jayne said: “He is such a professional. He chose to do it on his own terms and good for him.”
The only accolades yet to elude the Olympians are a knighthood for him and damehood for her — but they have not given up hope.
Christopher said: “We know the Queen used to watch us skating on TV, we were told by Princess Diana’s old butler Paul Burrell.”
Jayne added: “Hopefully it will come one day.”
Trio’s skate expectations
We highlight the three celebrity finalists and give Torvill and Dean’s verdict on each.
JOE SWASH: “Throughout this process all the contestants have always said we just want to enjoy whatever happens. Tomorrow is going to be so much fun. Libby and Perry are my two favourite people. None of us are competitive and 100 per cent behind each other.”
T&D VERDICT: “Joe is such a character and people are really tuned into him.”
PERRI KIELY: “My mum won’t watch me flip on the floor. So for me to do something crazy like throw Vanessa about – I see her hiding her eyes.”
T&D VERDICT: “Perri is going to be doing a dangerous move that has never been attempted on the show by a celebrity. It’s exciting and has taken several weeks to build up to. We have our fingers crossed it will happen.”
LIBBY CLEGG: “Skating solo is the hardest thing for me and way more nerve wracking than tricks. I’ve got very bad iceburn on my back, a couple of bruises, my knees are black and I’m pretty sure my bum is bruised.”
T&D VERDICT: “Libby has been fearless. Last week she did the dangerous headbanger move at the last minute. We were holding our breath as we watched.”