BRENDAN Cole's close relationship with the new Dancing on Ice judge Oti Mabuse risks sparking "fix" fears.
The former Strictly dancer gushed about his "great friend" Oti who has replaced judge John Barrowman who was axed following claims of inappropriate behaviour.
Oti worked with Brendan on Strictly Come Dancing for two years before bosses refused to renew his contract.
Despite once sharing the dancefloor with him in the Strictly group dances, Oti will now be forced to judge her close pal when he makes his debut on the ice.
Brendan also has the upper hand of having been dancing since 1996.
But Oti will be ensuring she's solely focussed on judging his skating efforts – just like her sister Motsi does with her on the Strictly panel.
Ahead of Sunday's launch show, Brendan said: "I think Oti is going to be absolutely phenomenal.
"She's an incredible person on and off the dance floor.
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"She has great dance experience, which will bring a lot to the show.
"You have to bring different elements, if every judge was the same it would be really boring. She's going to make an incredible judge.
"Her personality is larger than life and she's a great friend of mine.
"I'm really excited for her and likewise she's excited for me from the various conversations we've had since it's all been announced, it's exciting."
Brendan also revealed tension behind the scenes at Dancing on Ice, admitting his skating partner Vanessa Bauer is having to "calm him down" ahead of the show.
Brendan, 45, suffered concussion after a nasty fall on the first day of rehearsals.
And he says "accidents happen all the time" as stars work hard to avoid being voted out first.
Comparing this experience to his time as a professional dancer on Strictly, Brendan said: "I've performed in this scenario for 15 years where I've been the one in control and having to calm my partner down.
"Thankfully I've got a partner who can calm me down on Sunday. I will need it because actually I'm starting to feel that excitement and that adrenaline popping.
"I have that as an advantage more than anything else over everybody."
Vanessa has been putting Brendan through his paces resulting in being battered and bruised on the ice.
"I love that though, I think that's why we were partnered," said Brendan.
"We love to push, but we're having a good time as well.
"We're not competitive about wanting to win, we're competitive in that we want to do well and that I skate out there and feel really confident in myself that it's going to be a great routine and not worry about anyone else.
"Although I have had a cheeky look and it is does make me nervous."
He added: "We're all competing with ourselves at the start. I presume we all want to get through the first week. No one want togo home first.
"The more involved you get with the show the more keen you are to stay in each week. There's no way anyone wants to go home on the first, second or even third week."
Responding to claims his dance experience gives him an unfair advantage over the other celebrities competing, Brendan insisted he's faced the same challenges as everyone else.
"The thing with Dancing on Ice is that we're all taking tumbles.
"When you're pushing yourself as hard as we are getting ready for the live show, there are going to be accidents. They happen constantly.
"What you don't want to do is land on the same bruise twice. If you land on the same bit that's already been bruised three days before that, it really hurts.
"I concussed myself on the first day which was very embarrassing, but thankfully that was eight weeks ago and we carry on."
He added: "Yes, there are expectations, but you'll see on Sunday we are all at different points.
"Where you start to where you finish… getting to the next level or next week.. we're all trying to build upon wherever we're starting from.
"That's the beauty of these shows. No two people are the same, no two partnerships are the same.
"There are many things that put expectations and pressures on. I'm embracing the dancing side of it.
"There are a few of us who have had dance experience on the show. I think it's exciting to see what everyone is going to bring."
Brendan competed on Strictly Come Dancing for 15 series from 2004.
Without warning, his contract was not renewed and he broke down in tears on ITV's Lorraine about the bombshell decision.
- Dancing on Ice returns on Sunday at 6.30pm on ITV.
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