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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 December, 2003, 13:55 GMT
Pop Idol loser thinking positive
Mark Rhodes and Michelle McManus
Mark Rhodes and Michelle McManus are the finalists
Pop Idol loser Sam Nixon has said he is "gutted" by his shock exit from the TV show, although not as much as he had expected to be.

The 17-year-old odds-on favourite was unexpectedly voted off the talent show on Saturday night, leaving Mark Rhodes and Michelle McManus to battle it out.

He said he was happy to have made it to the final three, and hoped still to land a recording contract.

He also wished both Mark and Michelle luck in the final.

Natural talent

Judge Simon Cowell described Sam earlier in the competition as "one of the most naturally talented people" they had seen.

Sam said of his defeat: "Of course there's a part of me that's gutted, its just bugging me that I didn't get to the final, but I'm not as upset as I thought I would be.

"It's weird because I wanted it so much. I've got mixed emotions.

"There's just that bit in my mind thinking I was so close."

He said he would take inspiration from the example of Darius, who followed up third place in the show's previous series with a successful recording career.

He refused to be drawn on who he wanted to win, saying: "They both deserve it, they really do."

The two finalists now begin a week-long publicity blitz around the country on their own 'battle buses' ahead of the final public vote.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes have made Michelle, once at 33-1, the new favourite to win at 1-2, with Mark at 6-4.

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