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SAS: Who Dares Wins star says dance helped him beat gruelling interrogation

Mirror logo Mirror 1 day ago Matt Roper

Irish dancer Connor Smyth says his prowess on SAS: Who Dares Wins has silenced critics who said he wasn’t tough – and it was dancing itself that got him to the final seven.

The 30-year-old, who has toured the world with Lord of the Dance, says going through the steps of Michael Flatley’s famous show in his head helped him endure the pain.

In Sunday’s final the last seven recruits face the dreaded interrogation phase, when they are put through 48 hours of psychological torment and brutal questioning.

Connor, Recruit No16, admits that despite being at peak physical fitness due to his dance training, he wasn’t prepared for the mental torture.

He says: “It was definitely the most difficult part of the course. Nothing can really prepare you for it.

a man standing next to a body of water: Connor Smyth said he wasn't prepared for the mental torture of the show © Minnow Films Connor Smyth said he wasn't prepared for the mental torture of the show

“You’re hooded and stripped of all your senses, and all you can hear is the sound of squealing pigs, screeching... babies crying, drill noises.

“It’s really you and your own thoughts.

“They... put you in stress positions, like lying down on uneven ground with bits of wood sticking up, which I never imagined would be so difficult or painful.

“I’ve never done anything so tough, and I had to concentrate on getting through the next minute, then the next. I started to distract my mind from the pain and the suffering I was going through by going through Lord of the Dance in my head.

“It’s a 90-minute show, so I just went through it step by step in my head, over and over again.

“I didn’t want to think about giving up.”

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: In the final of SAS Who Dares Wins the recruits face interrogation © Minnow Films In the final of SAS Who Dares Wins the recruits face interrogation

Connor, from Newtownards near Belfast, Northern Ireland, and one of seven children, says he decided to apply for the extreme endurance show to challenge the stereotype of male dancers.

He has been teased since taking up Irish dancing aged four.

In the Channel 4 series, 21 men and women head into the wilds of Scotland, to be put through a condensed version of SAS selection.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Connor Smyth toured the world with Lord of the Dance © Minnow Films Connor Smyth toured the world with Lord of the Dance

This year’s course is the toughest in its six-year history, with the introduction of new extreme tasks.

Connor, who has performed in the West End and on Broadway, says: “Throughout my life and career I’ve been teased about being a wimp, girly and called gay because I do Irish dancing. I always felt I had something to prove.

“I had a hard time at school in the playground. Numerous times I came from school and said to my mum, ‘I’m sick of this’. I never felt accepted and always felt embarrassed.

“I tour with the best, we work incredibly hard and we have to be incredibly disciplined, rehearsing for hours on end then performing at the highest standards six days a week, and twice a day on weekends.

“But people don’t understand that. Even now with people I meet in bars or friends of friends, when I tell them what I do they don’t take me seriously.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the show, and I used to watch it and think, ‘I could do that’.

“I decided to apply to show people that dancers are tough and can

take on anything, and to help any other young male dancers who are going through the... struggles that I did. Since I’ve been on the show everyone’s stopped teasing me!”

Connor says the contest is even tougher than viewers realise.

a man standing in front of a rock: Connor says the show made him realise that nothing is impossible © Minnow Films Connor says the show made him realise that nothing is impossible

He said: “There’s so much that you don’t see on the TV. We had to run to and from each test with a heavy weight on our backs. And the daily grind really got to you, having only two or three hours’ sleep, putting on wet clothes, the cold and hunger.”

But he says of the show’s effect on him: “It made me realise that nothing is impossible, that no matter how big a challenge or obstacle. With a positive mindset I can achieve anything.”

  • The final of SAS: Who Dares Wins airs on Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4.

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