AN Olympic medallist and jungle contestant is the latest celebrity to head north and make a surprise panto appearance.
Fresh from three weeks on I’m A Celebrity get Me Out of Here, Fatima Whitbread spent the day in Billingham and the night in Wynyard as she visited her jungle pal Crissy Rock.
Fatima, a former Olympic silver medallist as well as world and European javelin champion became close to Crissy during the recent series on ITV1.
The two had not met up since their time Down Under, where Fatima finished in third place, until yesterday when they were re-united at Billingham Forum.
And to the complete surprise and gasps from the audience, Fatima made a guest appearances on stage during the afternoon and evening showing of Cinderella.
It was the first time Fatima had visited the region since her competing days when she was part of an illustrious line up of athletes at the annual Gateshead athletics meeting.
As well as her delight at meeting with Crissy once again, Fatima was also welcomed with open arms by Sir John Hall, at Wynyard Hall where she spent the night.
Fatima recalls being in the area in 1986 when Sir John opened the MetroCentre, at the time the largest shopping complex of its kind in Europe.
“It’s fantastic to be able to come up here and see Crissy again as well as being welcomed by Sir John,” Fatima told the Hartlepool Mail.
“It’s the first time I have seen Crissy since we left the jungle. It’s nice to come and give some support.”
Fatima, a former BBC Sports Personality of the Year who has also been awarded an MBE, said she was not completely sure she was going to be asked to take to the stage as part of the pantomime, but admitted she had a feeling the question would arise.
“Whenever you come to support somebody who you know in pantomime you know you might get asked. I did have a feeling I would end up on stage,” she said, laughing.
Fatima said she was taken aback by the support of the British public during her stint in the jungle.
She said she “didn’t know what to expect” ahead of the series, but admitted she was “overwhelmed” by the fantastic response of viewers.
“The jungle was a good experience for all of us,” she added.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but the response of people has been really lovely.”
Fatima’s visit delighted Crissy, who also welcomed fellow jungle contestant Lorraine Chase to Billingham Forum last week.
“It’s brilliant to see Fatima again,” said Crissy, who lives in Peterlee.
“It’s lovely of her to come and support me in the pantomime and it was great to see her on stage as well.”
Fatima is planning for a busy period ahead.
She is set to launch Fatima’s Fitness Fight, a 12-week fitness campaign on ITV’s This Morning tomorrow.
The pantomime at Billingham Forum is running until this Sunday, January 8.
For ticket details call (01642) 552663.