A TEENAGER has spoken of his pride after waltzing his Blue Peter dancing partner to victory in a tough international contest.

Wheelchair user James Ireland, 16, and TV presenter Helen Skelton danced together at the Malta Open Dance Competition at the weekend and came away with first prize.

The pair competed against up to 100 other dancers from 18 countries in three dances, the waltz, samba and quickstep.

The competition features couples where one is standing and the other is a wheelchair user, making the difficult dances even more challenging.

James, a pupil at Kingsdown Special School, Eastwood, was surprised and happy with the win, particularly as he only practised with Helen three times.

He said: “It was really good. Helen and I didn’t expect to win so we were really pleased. We were surprised to do so well.

“We thought our samba was the best and it is my favourite dance. We found the quickstep difficult, but everyone was impressed by it.”

The pair had two days of rehearsals in October, when Helen and the Blue Peter cameras came to Kingsdown.

James, who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and is paralysed from the waist down, continued to practise with his coach at the school’s wheelchair dancing club Spin.

Spin is an award-winning club and was specifically chosen by Blue Peter to help with Helen’s dancing challenge. James was then lucky enough to be the dancer chosen to compete.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing it on TV now.”

James, of Broomfield Avenue, Leigh, has been wheelchair dancing for four years and has competed in various competitions. He was helped by coaches Margaret Brix and Geoff Howlett and was accompanied on his trip to Malta by carer Lynn Ellison and Spin co-ordinator Sheila Beddows.

James and Helen’s success will be screened on Blue Peter at 4.35pm next Tuesday.