Strictly Come Dancing professional Neil Jones said it was a “sad day” as he led tributes to Pasha Kovalev, who has decided to quit the show after eight series.
Latin and ballroom dancer Kovalev competed in four finals and lifted the glitterball trophy once, with Love Island host Caroline Flack in 2014.
Jones, 36, hailed the Strictly veteran as a “true gentleman” following news on Wednesday morning that Kovalev would not return for the 2019 series of the BBC One programme.
Posting on Twitter, Jones said: “It’s a sad day @bbcstrictly family because @pashakovalev who we all know and love has decided not to return next series.
“He is a true gentleman on and off the floor and I have enjoyed every moment with you pash.”
Flack said the dancer had given her “some of the proudest moment of my life” in a post to Instagram.
She said: “So sad to hear the news that Pasha is leaving Strictly. A total gentleman….. You gave me some of the proudest moments of my life…”
Co-host Tess Daly also hailed Kovalev, telling fans he had been “a joy to work with” before wishing him luck for the future.
She said: “@PashaKovalev you will be so missed by the whole team @bbcstrictly. We have loved having you be part of the show for the past eight years; you are SO talented, a true gentleman & a joy to work with -and we wish you all the very best of luck in the future”
Fellow Strictly professional Karen Clifton described Kovalev as an “all around gentleman and a fantastic dancer” as she bid him farewell.
She wrote on Twitter: “Gonna miss you so much @PashaKovalev an all around gentleman and a fantastic dancer to work with. Love you buddy.”
Amy Dowden, who joined Strictly as its first Welsh professional in 2017, also highlighted Kovalev’s chivalrous nature.
She said: “Pasha, a true gent and beautiful dancer who will be so missed on strictly come dancing!!!! Wishing you all the love and happiness on your next venture!!!”
Describing him as a “Strictly legend”, fellow professional dancer Joanne Clifton said the cast and crew of the flagship BBC show would miss Kovalev “BIG TIME”.
She wrote: “Wishing this @bbcstrictly legend @PashaKovalev all the very best for the future! #Strictly will miss you BIG TIME!”
Kovalev, 39, will not return for this year’s series of the BBC One programme but will appear on the Strictly Come Dancing – The Professionals tour this spring.
He said on Twitter: “After scoring 93 perfect tens, reaching 4 finals and lifting 1 glitter ball, it’s time for me to find a new challenge and so I’ve decided to make last year my final season on Strictly.
“I’ve had 8 fantastic years, full of wonderful memories, thanks to the incredible partners, professionals and myriad of behind the scenes teams who all work to make Strictly the amazing production that it is.”
Kovalev leaves Strictly having found love on the programme with Countdown star Rachel Riley, whom he was partnered with on 2013.