Shirley Ballas completes Skyathlon saying a life saved is worth every challenge

Shirley Ballas completes her Skyathlon (UK Parachuting/PA)
Shirley Ballas completes her Skyathlon (UK Parachuting/PA)

Shirley Ballas has said “one life saved will have been worth every single challenge” as she finished her Skyathlon by jumping 13,000ft from a plane to raise awareness and funds for a suicide prevention charity.

The 62-year-old Strictly Come Dancing judge has completed a series of extreme tasks this week, including riding the world’s fastest zipline and wing walking 700ft in the air, in support of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm).

Ballas admitted her final challenge of skydiving over Peterborough on Saturday, falling at more than 120mph at one stage, was the “most fearful” she had felt in her life.

Shirley Ballas jumps out of a plane to raise funds for Calm (UK Parachuting/PA)

Afterwards, she told the PA news agency she could not sleep the night before and became emotional just before making the leap.

“There were two ladies that dropped before me and when I saw that I got overwhelmed, started crying,” she said.

“And then, of course, they’re filming you so the GoPro stuff that we have is really quite emotional, and I think people will be quite surprised to see my face, maybe my language.

“I’ve managed to keep myself very composed with the last two but not today, unfortunately.”

She admitted she found it “very difficult” but also “exhilarating” when she soared through the clouds.

Ballas added that she thinks she passed over the house of fellow Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, joking: “I could have gone in for tea.”

On Tuesday, she flew through the air on the world’s fastest zipline, across Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales, and on Thursday she soared to 700ft while strapped to the top of a propeller plane which took off from Headcorn Airfield near Ashford in Kent.

Asked which she was most nervous about, she admitted she was “absolutely terrified” about the skydive, adding: “It was not an easy experience but I did it for Campaign Against Living Miserably.

“I’ve done it for everybody out there who has lost a loved one, or anybody who’s living miserably, and for my brother David and my student that just passed a couple of weeks ago, age 38. I’m glad I went through with it.”

Ballas’s brother killed himself around 20 years ago and the professional dancer later became an ambassador for Calm to help prevent others experiencing what her family went through.

She revealed it had been a difficult week emotionally for her and her mother as they relived the memories of her brother.

“I sat down with her and we had emotional tears, and she said, ‘You’re doing great, and I’m proud of you but nothing you do will bring him back’, and I think that was a crush line for me because she’s still suffering deep down,” Ballas said.

“And I’m thinking that perhaps I didn’t ever really go through that grieving process because of how busy everything was and having to be the strength in the family for my mother and his daughter Mary, and, of course, my son, because we were all close.”

Ballas said she is reassured to know that her Skyathlon will have made a difference as it has already passed its £30,000 target.

“I know we’ve made a difference in some people’s lives, and one life saved will have been worth every single challenge I did,” she added.

“I want to bring suicide out of the dark and into the light. I think that mental health is talked about all the time, and we’re getting used to it in the workplace, at schools, but I do feel, from my perspective, that suicide is still a bit of a taboo subject.

“I want us to talk about it and I want to try to help save people and to help them realise that tomorrow is a brighter future for them. Just pick up the phone, one call could save a life.”

After taking a relaxing bath on Saturday night and spending time with family, Ballas is planning to organise more Skyathlon events.

She hopes to take on the challenges at least once a year and has said she would be open for her fellow Strictly judges and professional dancers to join her next time.