Stripper, dancer, firefighter. It’s a mixed background but one that Richard Allen hopes would help him beat the gruelling experience of Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins.

Jamie Bowman finds out more about his motivation...

IT’S known as one of the toughest challenges on TV and one which puts its recruits through the ultimate test of their physical and psychological resilience.

So how did a Flintshire street dancer and former stripper end up being put through his paces by notorious ex-Special Forces soldier Ant Middleton on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins.

“I’m a huge fan of the show and have watched every episode but one of my main motivations behind doing what I did was to inspire kids,” says Richard Allen, who lives in Holywell.

The Leader:

SAS: Who Dares Wins competitors, including Holywell's Richard Allen

“As a dance teacher I wanted to be a role model to the kids I teach by proving with hard work anything in life is possible.

“As dancers we’re often told our occupation isn’t a proper job and we’re not good enough, so by doing this I felt I proved a point that we’re just as equal as anybody.”

Richard, 33, who also works as a fireman, began his career as a personal trainer, gaining qualifications at college and university, before pursuing a career in dance.

After working with the Dreamboys male strip show, he now works as a teacher and choreographer with Mold-based Urban Fusion where he specialises in street dance, break dance and fitness classes.

The Leader:

Chief instructor Ant Middleton (second left) and his directing staff, from left, Foxy, Ollie and Billy

“I get a lot of stick for being a dancer, especially from the boys at the station but I’ve made a good career out of it,” he says. “I’ve just celebrated 13 years as a firefighter too and I do that around my main employment as a dance teacher.

“I suppose it’s bit unusual for a show to have a firefighter and dancer who works with the Dreamboys. Ant Middleton absolutely hammered me for it!”

In a landmark moment for the British Special Forces, the MOD has announced that in 2019, SAS selection will be open to women for the very first time and in order to reflect this, the new series of Who Dares Wins saw women taking part for the first time, with the programme makers sending a group of 25 men and women high into the spectacular and punishing Andes mountains in Chile for 11 gruelling days.

“We didn’t know where we were going until we got to the airport,” says Richard. “Ant just never broke character and I have to admit he was a horrible b*****d but when the show got to the end we did get to speak to him and he was much nicer.

The Leader:

“It was the first series with girls and at times you wanted to help the women out but in this series the boys had to fight the girls, and from a man’s point of view to stand there and watch that was hard work. You wanted to protect them straight away.”

Middleton and his directing staff, Foxy, Ollie and Billy, and the recruits were all based in an abandoned ex-military forward operating base surrounded by the brutal Andes mountains, where they were tested to the extremes of winter warfare facing all the challenges of living and operating at high altitude, with a lack of oxygen, in freezing temperatures and unforgiving snow storms.

The recruits ate, slept and washed together, with no allowances made for gender, as their mental and physical strength was tested to the limits.

“In our WhatsApp group the girls will argue they were the equals of the men but even though it won’t be evident on TV, there was a clear gap,” says Richard.

“At one point we were captured by travelling on a bus when loads of grenades went off and we got to do abseiling, climbing and free falling. We even had one day when we had to walk 10,000 feet up a mountain.

“As soon as I knew I was going on the show I really prepared for it - I was running three times a day, doing altitude training, boxing and even on the mental side I really prepared by waking myself up at 4am in the morning and sitting in a dark room for an hour.

“You can be the most physically able person there but sometimes it’s the mental side that makes you fail.”

Although he is sworn to secrecy about how the show went, Richard is looking forward to sitting down with his wife and young daughter to watch the show when it airs on Sunday evening at 9pm.

“We’ve got my brothers and sisters coming over and we’ve invited some friends over too,” added Richard. “It will be a bit of a surreal experience.

“As a person I always try and challenge myself to go one better each year and I’m now going to try and get back on TV because I’m hoping this show will give me a bit of a platform. I’m going to weigh things up this year but I really do fancy another challenge...”

Episode one of SAS: Who Dares Wins is on Channel 4 on Sunday, January 6 at 9pm