Strictly 2021 final forced to air shorter episode after bombshell AJ Odudu exit

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Strictly Come Dancing's 2021 final has been forced into a major format shake-up – after AJ Odudu dropped out of the show due to her nightmare foot injury.

The Strictly final was originally meant to air Saturday (December 18) between 7pm and 9.05pm on BBC One – which would have meant the final episode of the series had a run time of over two hours.

However, BBC bosses have now decided to shorten the episode – likely to the disappointment of many eager fans waiting to see who will lift the coveted Glitterball Trophy.

The final episode will now run between 7.10pm to 9pm on Saturday night.

The highly-anticipated final will see deaf EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice take on Bake Off winner John Whaite and his partner Johannes Radebe.

The sudden episode shortening comes after a spokesperson confirmed the format change – and reports suggesting the episode could have been cut short by up to 30 minutes to fill the time which would have covered AJ and Kai's performances.

It follows former finalist AJ Odudu having to pull out of the competition altogether just days before the final.

AJ, who was partnered up with Kai Widdrington, sustained a nightmare foot injury during rehearsals when she injured her ligament – and she has been unable to place any weight on her right foot.

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The TV presenter has been using crutches to walk, and also had to miss out on vital training sessions before the final.

AJ and Kai were in floods of tears during their first TV interview since their exit was announced.

Speaking to host Rylan Clark-Neal on It Takes Two, she admitted she was "gutted" about her exit.

AJ said: "Do you know what, we had the best time and on Monday we rehearsed and we were just excited like 'Right, we’re going to do the jive, we’re going to do the Charleston, what a way to end our experience'.

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"My ankle’s given way and my ligament has ruptured and it’s just not gonna happen. We’re gutted because we were ready to smash it."

Kai was emotional as AJ continued: "This isn’t the way that we wanted to go out, obviously, but even just looking back at all of those moments, it’s just been an absolute pleasure dancing with Kai every single week, so thank you."

Kai said: "We were really hoping that we were going to get over the line and get into the final and dance in the final."

In a statement, the BBC said: "Sadly due to injury AJ and Kai have had to withdraw from #Strictly and won’t compete in tomorrow’s final.

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"We want to thank them for 13 incredible weeks on the show and the pure joy they brought to the dance floor every week."

Saturday's final will see the couples perform three dances for the judges – including two previous dances and one brand new showdance.

John and Johannes will take on Rose and Giovanni in the final which will air on Saturday (December 18) at 7pm.

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  • BBC
  • Strictly Come Dancing
  • AJ Odudu

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