Matt Hancock has said his physical and mental resilience was tested “to its limits almost every minute of every day” during his time on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.
The West Suffolk MP, 44, said the closest he came to quitting the gruelling programme was after “having my rib broken” during the jungle phase of SAS selection in Thung Ui, north Vietnam.
He said, “I was determined to keep going so I just kept my mouth shut so I wasn’t medically discharged”.
Matt, who will appear alongside 15 other recruits on the Channel 4 show, previously said he wanted to push his limits after emerging from a “challenging period as health secretary during the pandemic”.
He was health secretary for almost three years but resigned in June 2021 after it emerged he had broken his own Covid-19 guidance by kissing and embracing aide Gina Coladangelo in his office.
The keen adventurer, who has been a fan of the SAS series “for years”, said he was in “pretty good shape” ahead of the show having completed a 100-mile walk of Mont Blanc and an “intensive fitness programme”.
But he said: “Being on SAS was like nothing else… it’s one of the toughest physical things I’ve ever done and it really opens your eyes and makes you really look into yourself.”
The show returns to TV screens on Tuesday, featuring chief instructor Mark “Billy” Billingham and his directing staff (DS) Jason “Foxy” Fox, Rudy Reyes and Chris Oliver.
Matt said he had dealt with antagonistic UK media during his career but the SAS directing staff “pushed my buttons, especially early on ."
"They push your buttons to get the rise, and then they show you the consequence of that and so you learn not to,” he said.
“It’s part of the training, and actually it’s a really important lesson in life in not rising to somebody when they have a go. I didn’t feel like I struggled with it.
“I don’t know if that comes over, but I don’t suffer fools gladly. They are definitely not fools and I had respect for what they were doing.”
When asked to compare his experience with being in front of the UK press, he said: “I’m used to dealing with some pretty aggressive incoming, but the DS were something else.”
Matt described a “real rapport” with the other recruits, who include singer Gareth Gates, Olympian Perri Shakes-Drayton and former England footballer Jermaine Pennant – who he was chosen to fight in the first episode ’s milling task.
On the fight, the MP said: “I was relieved that I wasn’t being paired with somebody even bigger, or a woman. But I thought, this is a bad moment.
“It didn’t hurt nearly as much as I expected actually, being smacked in the face. The bravery some people showed sticking at it, especially when there were unequal bouts.”
Matt, who lost the Tory whip over his appearance on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, described the reality programmes as “very different” but “both tested my resilience”.
He said: “There wasn’t a lot to do in the Australian jungle, so I was always looking forward to the tasks.
“The opposite was true on SAS where your physical and mental resilience was tested to its limits almost every minute of every day. Sitting down was a luxury.”
Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins will air on Channel 4 on Tuesday at 9.30pm.
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