Gladiators, ready! The legendary sports gameshow that sees members of the public take on super-strong “Gladiators” in a series of physical challenges is getting a revival on the BBC – what a time to be alive. The new Gladiators starts on BBC One on Saturday January 13 at 5.50 p.m., and is presented by father-son due Bradley and Barney Walsh.
Gladiators captivated Saturday nights in the nineties. The whole family huddled around a too-small television to watch Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu introduce four “contenders” (members of the public) who were going to take on the mighty Gladiators, in a show packed with shellsuits, tight lycra costumes, and Hairstyles with a capital H. By the time it reached the final round, aka The Eliminator, we’d all be screaming at the screen as contestants faced trapezes, a zipwire and the ultimate challenge: the travelator.
Fan favourites in the original Gladiators lineup included Wolf, Hunter, Jet and Lightning – but who will be the new generation of Gladiators for 2024?
Fury (Jodie Ounsley)
Exeter Chiefs Rugby Player Jodie Ounsley chose the name Fury because of her power and passion for competition. She might be just 22 years old, but she’s an absolute machine: as well as five years of professional rugby, including as an England Women’s Rugby Seven’s player, she’s also Brazilian Jiu Jitsu British Champion, five times World Coal Carrying champion, and won Deaf Sports Personality of The Year in 2020.
Gladiators runs in the family: her dad was a contender on the show’s first revival on Sky back in 2008, and a young Jodie began training to outdo him there and then, dressing up in a Gladiator costume and practising the games in her living room.
Steel (Zack George)
Leicester-born CrossFit athlete Zack George will take on the Gladiator name Steel thanks to his unbreakable strength. He certainly has the credentials for the name, winning the title of the UK’s Fittest Man in 2020, and in the same year placing 26th out of over 100,000 people on the global CrossFit leaderboard.
He hopes to inspire Gladiators’ new, younger fans to get fit, after he undertook his own fitness journey as a teenager, losing weight and going on to represent Leicestershire as a county athlete in rugby, squash and table tennis, before earning fame on social media as a CrossFit influencer.
Giant (Jamie Christian Johal)
6-foot-5 Jamie Christian Johal started his career as a firefighter, then earned the name Giant after he made history by becoming one of the world’s tallest bodybuilders.
He consumes over 6,000 calories a day to maintain his physique (same – ed), and once took on a 30-inch pizza in one sitting – how helpful that will be in the new series of Gladiators remains to be seen, but he’s certainly game for a challenge.
Fire (Montell Douglas)
Olympian Montell Douglas earned the name Fire because of her fierce determination to destroy her competition – and she’s certainly shown plenty of that throughout her sporting career.
In fact, Montell made history last year when she became the first British woman to compete in different sports at both the Summer and Winter Olympics: first, she took on the 100 metre sprint at Beijing 2008, then she returned to Beijing in 2022 to represent Team GB in the two-woman bobsled.
She hopes Fire will help to inspire woman from all backgrounds to achieve their dreams.
Legend (Matt Morsia)
Matt Morsia certainly works hard to earn his Legend nickname, earning medals in long jump and powerlifting during his international sporting career, before becoming a YouTube influencer and bestselling author of The 24/7 Body.
He also gives what is arguably the most “legendary” statement on being named as a Gladiator. While the others’ statements are more along “this is a dream come true” lines, Legend’s includes the claim “I could’ve spent the last two months eating doughnuts and playing Dungeons & Dragons and I’d still be better than everyone else” and confirms he’s “actively looking forward” to the “irreparable damage I’m about to do to the contenders.” One to watch, for sure.
Nitro (Harry Aikines-Aryeetey)
Sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey chose the name Nitro to represent his speed and high energy, and you can’t argue that he doesn’t have the credentials, and then some.
Over the last decade, he’s picked up a whopping five gold medals in the 100-metre relay at both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games. Before that, he also won BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2005 after becoming the first athlete to win gold for both the 100 and 200-metre races at the World Youth Championships. There’s not much that’ll get past Nitro…
Diamond (Livi Sheldon)
Livi Sheldon’s beauty and indestructibility earn her the name Diamond, and she likes to pass this strength and ability to “glow up” to other women in her work as an online fitness coach.
She’s also a 6-foot tall bodybuilder, turning childhood taunts about her height into one of her superpowers, and her passion for sports began when she insisted on joining the boys’ football team aged six, so she’s not to be messed with. She’s one of the younger and least-established Gladiators announced so far – but could she be the dark horse of the competition?
Sabre (Sheli McCoy)
Sheli McCoy chose the name Sabre because they’re both fierce, fearless, and ferocious! A Dundee gym owner and former Scottish champion in both CrossFit and weightlifting, she trains for up to 19 hours a week.
She’s also big on inspiring young girls to be confident, powerful athletes – something she does via her 100K-strong Instagram following – and cites the Gladiators as her own inspiration for this growing up.
Apollo (Alex Gray)
Like Legend, Alex Gray is backing himself from the start, choosing the name Apollo because of his speed and “cheeky good looks of a Greek god”.
He started out as a rugby player, including a three-year stint on the England 7s team, and then moved Stateside to become the first British rugby player to transfer to the NFL. Playing for the Atlanta Falcons, he also became the first international player to captain an NFL team, but he’s described becoming a Gladiator as “absolutely the greatest” thing he’s ever done.
Dynamite (Emily Steel)
20-year-old Dynamite’s statement on becoming a Gladiator begins “I’m too young to remember the original Gladiators”, so she’s off to a great start by savaging most of the country.
Her real name is Emily Steel, and she chose the name Dynamite because she’s “small, explosive and dangerous” (and presumably because Steel was already taken). Steel competed nationally as a swimmer until she was 15, and is now both a CrossFit athlete as well as studying full-time at university. Despite this punishing schedule, she also somehow recently found time to become a British record holder at an under-23s weightlifting competition.
Athena (Karenjeet Kaur Bains)
Karenjeet Kaur Bains chose to name her Gladiator persona Athena after the Greek goddess of both war and wisdom, and Karenjeet is about brains as much as she is brawn.
One the brawn side, she’s a five-time British powerlifting champion, the reigning Commonwealth powerlifting champion, and also holds the World Record for “most bodyweight squats in one minute”. On the brains side, she’s a chartered accountant, and a powerful advocate for south Asian women in fitness. She’s also proud to be the first Sikh Gladiator.
Comet (Ella-Mae Rayner)
Ella-Mae Rayner will become ‘Comet’ because she describes herself as a “force of nature, flashing past you” and colliding with her will transform you to dust. She’s had quite the sporting career already: first an elite gymnast, then a semi-pro at diving, then coaching and competing at the University Cheerleading Championships while getting her degree in Sport Science.
After suffering an ankle injury, she found her love for the gym, and is now a fitness coach and model with an impressive social media audience of almost one million followers.
Viper (Quang Luong)
Quang Luong chose the name Viper because of his precision and silent but fast reactions, skills he’s perfected over 15 years as a bodybuilder and boxer. Viper is also no stranger to showbiz, appearing in various film and TV roles including as a gangster in Bond film Die Another Day, and is being touted by some as the revival’s equivalent to original Gladiator Wolf, who was always happy to big up his lovable baddie persona.
Electro (Jade Packer)
Jade Packer’s Gladiators alter-ego will be called Electro because of her electrifying, unstoppable force that will make sparks fly. Electro is a triple threat: her past experience as a sprinter means she’s fast, her bodybuilding work means she’s strong and her more recent CrossFit training has given her plenty of sporting stamina.
She’s also both a sports model and fitness coach, so she’s certainly not short of relevant skills for the Gladiators arena.
Phantom (Toby Olubi)
Toby Olubi earns the name Phantom for his terrifying force that will leave contenders “shivering in his wake”. Phantom is an Olympian, competing for Team GB’s Bobsleigh team in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and winning the title of UK’s fastest blobsledder for four years running between 2015 and 2019. He’s also a keen sprinter, a model and a fitness presenter, and he’s already proven himself a winner: back in 2016 he won £12K on Deal or No Deal to help fund his bobsleighing career.
Bionic (Matty Campbell)
6-foot-6 Matty Campbell chose the name Bionic because his bodybuilding makes him so massive and strong that he’s a machine! He was always sporty, sprinting and playing football throughout his childhood, but sadly an injury cut short his dreams of going pro. During rehabilitation, he discovered his love and natural affinity for the gym, and his bodybuilding career began. He describes joining Gladiators as “by far the most bonkers, unexpected thing to ever happen to me.”
Gladiators airs on BBC One and iPlayer on Saturday January 13 at 5.50 p.m. in the UK.