Entertainment & Arts

Pasha Kovalev leaves Strictly Come Dancing

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Media captionHow Pasha became a fan favourite - watch his Strictly highlights

Pasha Kovalev has announced he is leaving Strictly Come Dancing after "eight fantastic years".

The Russian dancer announced the news on his Twitter account, saying it's time for him "to find a new challenge".

"Thanks to the incredible partners, professionals and myriad of behind the scenes teams who all work to make Strictly the amazing production it is," he wrote.

He also thanked the public for supporting him over the years.

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Image caption Pasha competed with Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts in the most recent series

Strictly Come Dancing also shared a statement on their Twitter account, thanking Kovalev for his "amazing choreography and routines".

"Pasha is an incredibly talented and dedicated dancer who is much loved by his Strictly family and viewers and will be hugely missed" they said.

The 39-year-old joined the show for its ninth series in 2011, where he finished as runner-up with celebrity partner Chelsee Healey.

Two years later, he was paired up with Countdown's Rachel Riley. The pair began a relationship and have been together since.

He also made it as a runner-up in the tenth series alongside Girls Aloud's Kimberley Walsh and finally got to lift the glitter ball trophy with presenter Caroline Flack, when they won series 12.

Flack paid tribute to her former dancing partner on Instagram and posted pictures of their time at the show.

"You gave me some of the proudest moments of my life..." she wrote.

Last year, Kovalev and his celebrity partner, Ashley Roberts, faced some backlash due to Roberts's past dance experience as a member of The Pussycat Dolls.

But that didn't stop the couple from making it all the way to the final. The pair have also just completed the Strictly live tour.

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