A FORMER RNLI lifeguard is set for television stardom in the revamped television show Gladiators.
Muscular Sam Bond, from Christchurch, will hit our screens as Atlas, a tough but dignified fighter in the new version of the popular show.
The 24-year-old, a former pupil of St Peter's School, said the role was a dream come true for him after he was inspired by the series as a child.
Sam, who spent summers as a lifeguard in Poole Bay from 2002 to 2007 and went on to a career as a fundraiser for the charity, is now training alongside 11 other super-fit men and women, including Olympic medal-winner Du'aine Ladejo.
He said: "I was absolutely over the moon. It's such incredible news. It still hasn't sunk in. I don't think it will until the lights are on and I'm on camera getting hit around the head with a pugil stick. Then I'll think - hang on a minute, I'm a Gladiator!"
Sam, whose physique is down to training to compete in drug-free body building leagues, says he was inundated with calls from friends and family urging him to apply.
"It still hasn't sunk in. I don't think it will until the lights are on and I'm on camera getting hit around the head with a pugil stick."Sam Bond
The gladiator auditions were by invitation only, so he tried out as a contender - but made such an impression he was soon in the running to be one of the show's stars.
"As a kid I'd never be cheering on the contender - it was always the Gladiator I wanted to win," he said.
"It's absolutely a dream come true. The original gladiators were what first inspired me to take care of myself and get in shape. Hopefully I'll be a role model for children like they were before me."
Gladiators was originally broadcast from 1992 to 2000, attracting 14 million viewers at its peak. Events for the new season include favourites such as "hang tough" and "the wall" as well as fierce new challenges.
Filming starts on Saturday, and the show will be screened next month, with presenters Ian Wright and Kirsty Gallacher and original referee John Anderson.
Richard Woolfe, Sky One director of programming, said: "The games are bigger, the contenders are stronger and the Gladiators are even more unbelievable. We've found extraordinary characters."