Coming into Gladiators Australia, Kalani Lenehan had a lot to live up to, both his parents were part of the original '90s series with mum Karyn serving as the iconic Delta across three seasons and dad James was a quarter-finalist as a contender.
"Obviously mum was very keen for me to give it a crack, and dad loved his time as a contender in the original series so I gave it a go and now I'm very happy I did," Kalani told 10 Play.
"Of course with the name being thrown out as the son of a previous Gladiator, you can't help but feed into the nerves a little, but I'm usually quite composed in that sense so I just tried to block it out once it came to going up against the Gladiators," he said. "I knew that it was going to be very different to the original, it's a completely new show so in that sense I was pretty excited to see how it compared to the original."
With two super-fit parents, Kalani admitted that he's always had a passion for fitness, growing up doing track and field from a young age. "That was my main sport growing up, which I planned to take as far as I possibly could. I had dreams of the Olympics when I was younger, but with the COVID lockdowns, I turned my training towards strength-based, lifting weights. That's where the whole bodybuilding side came into it."
Heading into the Gladiators Australia arena, Kalani didn't need to shake up his regular training regime much at all.
"Going up against the Gladiators that are going to be bigger, stronger, and faster, I was just trying to stay as overall as I could with my fitness levels and strength," he explained. "I think the biggest thing I had to pick up was adding a lot more cardio in.
"I knew how exhausting games like Powerball, Pyramid and the Eliminator [can be], pretty much the biggest change to training was a lot more cardio, a lot more running."
The running came in handy as Kalani faced off the final Eliminator in the Grand Finale. Kalani was up against fellow contender Daine, who had a several-second headstart on our champion in the final event.
"It's funny because the entire Grand Final I was, in the back of my mind, hoping I was starting after Daine," Kalani admitted. "You get more nerves if you're getting chased, so being able to have a second or two behind him and have to make up for it, I think it fueled the fire a lot.
"Starting in a deficit weirdly made me more confident but, regardless of if I had a headstart or he had a headstart or if it was even, I was just trying to stay as composed as possible. I think you can tell on TV we’re both looking like we’re going to be sick," he laughed.
A mix of emotions heading into the finale, Kalani felt confident facing off against the Gladiators after battling through the heats, quarter-final and semi-final. "But I knew whoever I'd be going up against in the grand final would be one of the best contenders.
"I think just getting to the Grand Final itself I was proud, so regardless of the result I was just happy to be there!"
In the final Eliminator, despite Daine's slight headstart, the duo were neck-and-neck for the entire event. But Kalani managed to sneak past his competitor and made fast work of the rope climb, powering through seamlessly to crash through the wall of bricks and emerge on the other side as a second-generation Gladiator.
"During the Eliminator you just black out, you're not even thinking about what's going on. Coming through those blocks at the end, I don't even know if words could describe it," he said.
"It's just a big wave of emotions but I think it took me a few hours to actually process what had happened after the final Eliminator! I didn't think I was going to make it past the heats, let alone win, so the entire journey up until going through those final blocks was just crazy!"
As for a potential Gladiator title for himself, Kalani admitted that he considered continuing on the family legacy with a Greek letter much like mum Delta. "I thought about it, but I always like to be an individual as well. Mum had her time on the show and that's always special to her, and I don't want to feed off it too much.
"I was throwing around the name Jaguar out a lot, which I really like the meaning behind that animal, that's what I've been thinking!"
You can watch Kalani's triumphant Gladiators Australia run as well as the entire full season on 10 Play!