The TV presenter had to withdraw from the 2021 finale of the BBC ballroom show at the 11th hour after tearing a ligament in her right ankle, leaving eventual winner Rose Ayling-Ellis to go up against John Whaite in the final.
In a new interview with Women’s Health, AJ has reflected on the experience, calling the evening of the live final, where she appeared in the audience, a “sweet dream and a beautiful nightmare”.
“It was absolutely amazing. I got to wear the dress I was going to wear for my show dance; I wanted to get to the final and I got to the final,” she said.
“But it was also that realisation of, ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot believe that I’m not on that stage because I’ve got this injury! Are you joking?’”
AJ continued: “Now, I kind of feel guilty that I was so hard on myself initially. I thought, ‘How were you so angry at your body, which has done so much. Like, at least 10 hours a day for 13 weeks’.
“Yes I have this body that let me down, but, actually, it carried me to the final; it did what it needed to do.”
After AJ missed out on a place in the Strictly final, it was later announced that she and her dance partner Kai Widdrington would be performing their intended Showdance set to Naughty Boy and Beyoncé‘s track Runnin’ (Lose It All) on the Strictly tour earlier this year.
However, she had to withdraw as her ankle had still not recovered, with Kai dancing with 2020 contestant Maisie Smith.
AJ also discussed her exercise goals when her ankle is back to full strength.
“To exercise when I feel alert and good and then my body will respond to that,” she said. “And just chill out when my body is telling me to.”
Read the full interview in the May issue of Women’s Health UK, on sale now.