STRICTLY Come Dancing star Robert Webb has opened up about his tough decision to quit the BBC dancing competition.
The comedian and his professional dance partner Dianne Buswell released a statement confirming their departure due to his ill-health.
Robert, 49, took to his social media to update fans on the difficult decision, insisting he “didn’t have a choice” but to step back from Strictly.
“Very sad to be leaving but didn’t really have a choice,” he wrote to his fans. “I’m going to be just fine once I’ve had a good rest.”
Thanking fans for their kind words, he concluded: “Very proud of these dances and will be forever in the debt of the luminous Dianne Buswell.”
Robert added a series of photos of himself and Dianne, 32, both on and off the floor – including their week three ‘The Muppets’ themed dance.
In the comments, the Aussie pro dancer gushed over her partner, calling him “epic” as she told his following he “did her proud”.
“You were epic, invoice is on its way to you!” she jibed. “All jokes aside you did me very proud. Specially that tango, one of my fave I have ever done.”
On Wednesday night, Robert took to Instagram to announce that he and Dianne QUIT the competition – just days before the fourth live episode.
The pair explained that the decision had to be made due to Robert’s ill-health following major heart surgery.
Robert said in a statement: “I’m extremely sorry to have to announce that I’m withdrawing from Strictly Come Dancing due to ill health.
“Two years ago I had open heart surgery and although I believed I was fit enough to take on Strictly and its demanding schedule, it became clear that I had bitten off way more than I could chew for this stage in my recovery.
“I had begun to feel symptoms that led me to seek an urgent consultation with my heart specialist, and it was her view that it would be better for the sake of my health to step back from the show.”
He added: “I’m proud of the three dances that Dianne and I managed to perform and deeply regret having to let her down like this.
“I couldn’t have wished for a more talented partner or more patient teacher, and it’s a measure of Dianne’s professionalism and kindness that I was able to get as far as I did.
“Thanks too to everyone at home who voted for us. It was always going to be a difficult mountain to climb (for one thing it’s made of glitter so it’s very skiddy) and I’ve been especially touched by the support from fellow heart patients.
“I think perhaps I was too eager to impress them. They will know that recovery doesn’t always go in a straight line, and I hope they’re not too disappointed that I ran into the limits of my resilience much sooner than I’d hoped.
“I leave knowing that Strictly viewers are in very safe hands and I’ll be cheering for my brother and sister contestants all the way to Christmas.
“Despite this sad ending, it has been a genuine honour to be part of this huge, joyful and barking mad TV show. Long may it continue.”
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Dianne paid tribute to Robert as she shared: “As a massive fan of Robert’s, I was delighted to find out that he was joining the Strictly family.
“On top of this, to find out he was my partner was the icing on the cake. We made a great team, worked hard and had a good laugh along the way.
“I am so proud of the three amazing dances we produced. I know Robert had a lot more to give to the competition but his health of course comes first and I wish him a speedy recovery. I feel lucky to have danced with him and to call him a friend.”
Robert and Dianne had impressed Strictly viewers with their routines – most recently performing while dressed up as Kermit The Frog and Ms. Piggy for Movie Week.
The Peep Show star opened up about his congenital heart defect earlier this month, where he revealed he could barely walk last year after having emergency surgery to save his life.
He said at the time: “When I first came out of hospital I could not walk to the end of the street without help. I couldn’t even lift a kettle for four weeks.
“So gradually you build up again until you are doing longer and longer walks. Then seven months later the walks turn into runs — and then you become a dancer.
“This was not the first time they asked, and I knew there would be a collision between me and Strictly very likely to happen in the future.
ROBERT’S HEALTH BATTLE
“But it goes back to the heart surgery — now I think I have got something to offer this show.”
Opening up about his diagnosis, the father-of-two shared: “It’s a birth defect — one of the valves in my heart had prolapsed instead of opening and shutting nicely. It had almost doubled in size, it was this really weird shape and it was doing all this just to keep the show on the road.
“My heart thought that I was running up a hill when I was asleep, and I had not noticed. I thought: ‘Well, I am tired, as I treat my body like a skip.’
“I saw a cardiologist and they said I had ‘severe regurgitation’ — that the blood that should have been pushed around my body was flowing back-wards into a different chamber, causing all sorts of trouble.”
Robert feared he “wouldn’t make it to Christmas” as he recalled: “The cardiologist told me: ‘I am not saying you are going to have a heart attack in the next fortnight but if we don’t fix it in the next two to three months this heart will fail.’”
The star explained that he had also been “slow-killing” himself with alcohol, increasing the amount he was consuming to the point where he believed he had become addicted.
But his near-death experience, and being taken into hospital, gave him the shock he needed. He said: “It does give you a different perspective, because I had been trying to give up drinking and smoking for the last five, six or ten years and found it really difficult.”