Season two of NBC’s “The Titan Games,” hosted by Duane “The Rock” Johnson, was shot at Atlanta Metro Studios earlier this year, just before the pandemic hit.
For the uninitiated, it’s like a more grandiose version of “American Ninja Warrior” and requires ungodly amounts of physical strength and mental acuity to win. It fits The Rock brand to a tee.
Johnson, who now has a home in Powder Springs, hand-picked athletes - Olympic medalists, an NFL player, a boxing champ -, to compete against regular folks who are also extraordinary athletes. One man and one woman will each be crowned Titan champion by season's end.
He split the show, which began in late May, into three regions. The East region begins July 13 at 8 p.m.
Haley Johnson, an Army nurse stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus and former competitive weightlifter, will compete tonight against Cynthia Gauthier, a professional monster truck driver from Canada.
Haley, 26, grew up in Calhoun and Ft. Oglethorpe and graduated Kennesaw State University with a nursing degree.
She moved from Texas last year after her father Jerry last September had a seizure and was found to have an aggressive brain tumor.
A “Titan Games” producer reached out to her a few weeks later.
Not long after that, Haley’s dad went to hospice and died Dec. 17. A gas station manager, he was just 53. It was a shock because he had never been really sick before, Haley said.
In early January, she began competing on “The Titan Games.”
“He inspired me to keep going,” she said.
Though she grew up poor, her parents gave her plenty of love.
“I don’t know how he did it,” she said. “All that sacrifice.”
As a kid, “I didn’t realize I was athletic at all growing up,” she said, until they moved to Fort Oglethorpe and she joined the soccer team. In college, Haley discovered weightlifting and body building and that became her passion.
Her parents were not happy at first, worried it would make her look too “manly,” Haley said. But when they watched her compete and win in 2016, she won them over. “My mom was crying, ‘Now I understand why you love it!’ “
Haley competed for about three years and won multiple competitions before taking a break.
She was surprised that “Titan Games” even found her.
Haley said she had about two months to prepare for the show and focused on cross-fit activities and found a functional fitness gym at Fort Benning.
“I did a lot of flipping tires and pulling heavy sleds,” she said. “I worked a lot of grip strength exercises. I learned how to hold a sledgehammer properly and jumping to a bar. I don’t love jumping on bars. I feel like I’m going to rip my hand off!”
While on “The Titan Games,” she really learned a lot from the other competitors.
“Everyone held each other up. It was so inspiring,” she said.”We now have a group chat and talk every day.”
Other contestants had also experienced parental loss. “It was nice to talk through things with them,” Haley said.
She was also amazed by all the blood and thought she broke her toe at some point. Fortunately, she had just messed up her toenail, which was painful but at least it wasn’t broken.
During her first competition airing Monday night, she has to traverse a a chain link fence suspended 20 feet in the air she hadn’t seen before.
“There was a lot more climbing and jumping than season one,” she said. “That took me by surprise.”
UPDATE: During Monday’s episode, Haley cruised through the first two rounds and made it to Mount Olympus. She had to face off against Gold Mdeal Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter, who said she was in “full beast mode” to take on Haley. But Haley was the beast and beat her with plenty of time to spare, holding a lead early and holding it.
After her victory, the Rock bonded with Haley’s mom over her dad’s death since his dad recently passed and was just his usual great self.
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.