Olympian Iwan Thomas and Paralympian Richard Whitehead join RuPaul’s Drag Race winner, Made in Chelsea star and Holby City actress in Celebrity Hunted

A new crop of stars are ready to disappear into thin air, or try to, aiming to evade capture in the latest series of Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted.

Their names are synonymous with achievements in the sporting arena, but Iwan Thomas and Richard Whitehead will soon be showing off a very different side of themselves.

Olympic silver medallist sprinter Thomas, 48, and two-time Paralympic gold medallist Whitehead, 45, who has set world records in full and half marathons, are used to being seen pushing themselves to the limit in packed sports stadiums.

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However, as one of four pairings for Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted, they will be hoping to remain as invisible as possible.

Iwan Thomas and Richard Whitehead are featuring on Celebrity Hunted. Picture: PA Photo/Channel 4 Television/Colin Hutton

“It’s such a great platform for expressing different sides of your personality,” says Whitehead of the show, adding: “But also to explore relationships as well, and myself and Iwan have been friends for a while.

“We got along really well before, and I think the kind of life experience we have both had, and being fathers, we wanted to show the humanistic side of our personalities.”

Alongside the other celebrities, who are RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne, Made In Chelsea’s Oliver Locke and his husband Gareth, they will be staying off the radar for two weeks while being “hunted” by a specialist elite team of 30 people, consisting of former police and intelligence officers.

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The hunters will try to catch the contestants, who hope to evade capture. Photo: PA Photo/Channel 4 Television/Colin Hutton

The programme, returning for a fourth series in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, will also feature reality TV personality Chloe Veitch, Holby City star Chizzy Akudolu and former So Solid Crew member Lisa Maffia.

Former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Thomas is as enthusiastic about the on-screen partnership as Whitehead is. In fact, when he was first approached to do the Channel 4 programme, he says fellow medal winner Whitehead was his first choice for a partner.

“We’re very similar. But yet, we’re very, very different,” Thomas muses.

“I knew he would bring out the best in me. I hope the viewers get to see that. Everything about Richard’s career and how he is as a man off the track as well, I really admire him,” he says.

“We went into it thinking we need to show our fun side as well, but we also want to show someone with a deemed disability is not really, and I don’t care about saying this, you’ll see Richard is more of a man than me in this programme.

“He’s a tough cookie and he’s a brilliant bloke and I just think it was really important for us to try and show that as well.

“(We’re) both elite sportsmen, on different ends of the spectrum, if you want, an Olympian and a Paralympian,” he continues.

“You might deem that surely the Olympian is going to be at an advantage, but not at all.

“There’s many, many aspects about Richard which I’ve taken away from this experience and hopefully beginning to use in my everyday life, because as I said, we’re very yin and yang, we’re very different.”

Whitehead explains they both saw the programme as an opportunity to “tell this story of Richard and Iwan and our lives and our day-to-day” and “how hard it is as an athlete, and also post-athletic career as well”.

He adds: “Hopefully that comes out, that we’re not just Richard and Iwan, the ex-athletes, but we are actually young men that want to give back and utilise our platforms for the greater good.”

Thomas, who is a British record holder in the 400m, reflects on his own journey and showing vulnerability on screen.

He says: “To start with I very much was that tough ex-sportsman, ‘you won’t get me, I won’t break’. And then as the journey goes on, I very much became the vulnerable young boy inside who was missing home and was scared, and it may sound silly, but I really hope that comes across.

“And also the fact that Richard taught me and we taught each other, it’s OK not to be OK. And we hug each other.

“When we had to be, we were there for each other and I don’t know what made the final cut, but it was definitely a few moments when he could see I was struggling and nothing needed to be said, he just came and gave me a big man hug.

“And I think it was really nice that we were there for each other because to do something like this on your own would have been horrific.”

The break from social media and technology was also a bonus, because having a phone on them would mean they could be tracked.

“We slept in barns, we slept in fields, on beaches, wherever, and it was actually kind of quite nice to go back to not have an alarm clock to wake you up or the first thing you do when you wake up is check how many likes you have on Instagram,” says Thomas.

Sprinter Whitehead, who is a double amputee, completed 40 marathons in 40 days in 2013 and won gold in 2012 in London at the Paralympic Games in the T42 200m, speaks openly about representation on screen and its importance.

He says: “There’s lots of individuals out there that have these obstacles and barriers that stop them not only from getting employment but also just accessing life.

“And to break down some of these social barriers, it’s really important that on the TV and in the media that we show it’s possible, and seeing is believing.

“Being somebody that grew up in the 80s, when there wasn’t an inclusion spectrum and TV was very white male, now that this, it’s starting to be more of a representation for the actual audiences watching, that’s really important for me.

“And one of the days where we went to do something, we kind of had a conversation where I was like, ‘No Iwan, we need to do this, I want to not only show you that we can change people’s perceptions of what can and can’t be done, but also that every decision we make has consequences’. And we need to be looking for solutions in life.”

Celebrity Hunted airs on Sunday, January 30, at 9pm on Channel 4 and All 4, in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, which is the joint national fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.

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