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Ulrika Jonsson reflects on Gladiators backstage drama

Following the scandal surrounding ex-Gladiators star Shadow this week, former host of the show Ulrika Jonsson has reflected on her time working with the stars of the 90s Saturday night favourite.

Writing in The Sun, Ulrika – who fronted the series from 1992–2000 – has told of her time working with Shadow.

‘Yesterday’s mugshot of our biggest and most frightening Gladiator, Shadow, looking hollow-cheeked and well beyond his 59 years, on a charge of a drug-fuelled blackmailing plot, is a stark reminder that the show had its fair share of scandals,’ she writes.

On reflection: Former Gladiators host Ulrika Jonsson has reflected on her time working with the stars [Back row- Shadow (Jefferson King)Trojan (Mark Griffin) Warrior (Michael Aherne) Hunter (James Crossley) Middle row- Falcon (Bernadette Hunt) Zodiac (Kate Staples) Nightshade (Judy Simpson) Lightning (Kim Betts) Scorpio (Nikki Diamond) Saracen (Mike Lewis) Front row- Cobra (Michael Wilson) Panther (Helen O'Reilly) Jet (Diane Youdale) Wolf (Michael Van Mijk) Centre- John Fashanu]

On reflection: Former Gladiators host Ulrika Jonsson has reflected on her time working with the stars [Back row- Shadow (Jefferson King)Trojan (Mark Griffin) Warrior (Michael Aherne) Hunter (James Crossley) Middle row- Falcon (Bernadette Hunt) Zodiac (Kate Staples) Nightshade (Judy Simpson) Lightning (Kim Betts) Scorpio (Nikki Diamond) Saracen (Mike Lewis) Front row- Cobra (Michael Wilson) Panther (Helen O'Reilly) Jet (Diane Youdale) Wolf (Michael Van Mijk) Centre- John Fashanu]

On reflection: Former Gladiators host Ulrika Jonsson has reflected on her time working with the stars [Back row- Shadow (Jefferson King)Trojan (Mark Griffin) Warrior (Michael Aherne) Hunter (James Crossley) Middle row- Falcon (Bernadette Hunt) Zodiac (Kate Staples) Nightshade (Judy Simpson) Lightning (Kim Betts) Scorpio (Nikki Diamond) Saracen (Mike Lewis) Front row- Cobra (Michael Wilson) Panther (Helen O’Reilly) Jet (Diane Youdale) Wolf (Michael Van Mijk) Centre- John Fashanu]

Shadow – real name Jefferson King – looked world’s away from his hunky heyday as a Gladiator in a photo released by the police.

The show saw a group of athletic men and women take on members of the public in a series of challenges, with Ulrika, now 53, hosting the ITV series alongside footballer John Fashanu, and later rugby pro Jeremy Guscott.

‘I had never encountered body-builders and this was a unique glimpse into their world,’ Ulrika goes on. ‘Eye-popping muscles like that come with an extraordinary vanity. The vast majority of them were so focused on themselves and their amazing bodies that their egos easily outsized anything an average person could imagine.’

The show was mired with scandal during its eight years on the air.

Shocking: This astonishing mugshot of Shadow from ITV's Gladiator series with hollow cheeks and dead eyes has been issued by police after he admitted taking part in a drug-fuelled blackmail plot

Shocking: This astonishing mugshot of Shadow from ITV's Gladiator series with hollow cheeks and dead eyes has been issued by police after he admitted taking part in a drug-fuelled blackmail plot

Ulrika writes: 'Yesterday’s mugshot of our biggest and most frightening Gladiator, Shadow, looking hollow-cheeked and well beyond his 59 years, on a charge of a drug-fuelled blackmailing plot, is a stark reminder that the show had its fair share of scandals'

Ulrika writes: 'Yesterday’s mugshot of our biggest and most frightening Gladiator, Shadow, looking hollow-cheeked and well beyond his 59 years, on a charge of a drug-fuelled blackmailing plot, is a stark reminder that the show had its fair share of scandals'

Shocking: This astonishing mugshot [L] of Shadow from ITV’s Gladiator series with hollow cheeks and dead eyes has been issued by police after he admitted taking part in a drug-fuelled blackmail plot. He is pictured, R, on the show in the early 1990s

Honest: Writing in The Sun , Ulrika - who fronted the series from 1992–2000 - has told of the scandals backstage at the show. She is pictured with Shadow and co-star Michael Aherne

Honest: Writing in The Sun , Ulrika - who fronted the series from 1992–2000 - has told of the scandals backstage at the show. She is pictured with Shadow and co-star Michael Aherne

Honest: Writing in The Sun , Ulrika – who fronted the series from 1992–2000 – has told of the scandals backstage at the show. She is pictured with Shadow and co-star Michael Aherne

On the more frivolous side, there was bed-hopping and arrogance, while more serious was the drug-use and boozing, with incidents of domestic abuse, perverting the course of justice and even involvement in a murder plot going on behind closed doors.

‘That first year in the Hyatt Regency hotel, which we more or less took over, there was a lot of bed-hopping, as there would be with a bunch of young, virile men and women with insane bodies,’ Ulrika writes. ‘Apparently, there were quite a few multiples of people enjoying a bit of rough and tumble under the covers, while I was up in my room writing the script and furiously trying to learn my lines.’

Ulrika enjoyed her own dalliance with Hunter [real name James Crossley], in a much publicised affair. 

‘The scandals were never far away,’ Ulrika goes on. ‘A couple of years into filming, there were rumours of steroid use and, by the mid-90s, the show’s producers started testing the cast. I was clear every time, for the record.’

Scandals: On the more frivolous side, there was bed-hopping and arrogance, while more serious was the drug-use and boozing, with incidents of domestic abuse, perverting the course of justice and even involvement in a murder plot going on behind closed doors

Scandals: On the more frivolous side, there was bed-hopping and arrogance, while more serious was the drug-use and boozing, with incidents of domestic abuse, perverting the course of justice and even involvement in a murder plot going on behind closed doors

Scandals: On the more frivolous side, there was bed-hopping and arrogance, while more serious was the drug-use and boozing, with incidents of domestic abuse, perverting the course of justice and even involvement in a murder plot going on behind closed doors

Pucker up! Wolf is seen with Ulrika in the early days of the show

Pucker up! Wolf is seen with Ulrika in the early days of the show

Pucker up! Wolf is seen with Ulrika in the early days of the show

Michael Willson – known as Cobra – admitted he ‘drank a lot during Gladiators’, often ‘downing a bottle of red’ before going on the air. 

Sandy Young – known as Phoenix – was sentenced to 150 hours of community service in 1996 for attacking her ex-husband due to a custody disagreement over their son.

Gladiators: A Nineties television mainstay 

Gladiators, which was presented by Ulrika Jonsson, John Fashanu and later Jeremy Guscott, first hit screens on 10 October 1992, with the series comprising of contestants fighting against a Gladiator. 

Aiming for as many points as they could, the contestant with the highest number of points got a headstart in The Eliminator assault course with every point being worth a second. The winner of The Eliminator would then complete in the next round. 

Originally ending in 2000, Gladiators was later revived by Sky1 and aired in 2008 for a year, before being cancelled in May 2009. 

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The police released Shadow’s mugshot this week, showing him with hollow cheeks and dead eyes after he admitted taking part in a drug-fuelled blackmail plot.

Jefferson King had demanded £1,000 last year from a mother for the safe return of her son who was allegedly being held hostage by a gang.

The former bodybuilder, who is barely recognisable from his 1990s heyday after years of drug abuse, is currently in custody awaiting sentencing at the conclusion of a trial of other alleged blackmailers.

King, who was born in London to Jamaica parents, moved to New York aged 14, where he joined the school American football team before becoming an addict during the 1970s crack boom.  

But he got clean and moved back to England, where he met his wife and fathered two children before being recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series hosted by Ulrika Jonsson.

In 1995 King was caught snorting cocaine, then axed from the ITV show after testing positive for steroids. 

He later turned to heroin and crack cocaine, lost his home and family and served a succession of prison sentences.

In 2009 he went into rehab and stayed clean, revealing in 2011 that he had beaten his addiction and worked at a rehab clinic to help people suffering from drug problems. 

However, by last year he was back on illegal drugs – and last March King was charged with heroin possession.

A week later, just days before lockdown, a court heard how he was involved in a blackmail plot after a day of smoking drugs ‘degenerated rapidly’, according to The Sun.

Prosecutors told jurors at Isleworth Crown Court how victim Aaron Ali was held for a ‘significant’ period of time at a flat in Acton, West London. Mr Ali, 40, was allegedly gagged with a tissue placed in his mouth to muffle the screams and punched and kicked.

Affair: Ulrika enjoyed her own dalliance with Hunter [real name James Crossley], in a much publicised affair

Affair: Ulrika enjoyed her own dalliance with Hunter [real name James Crossley], in a much publicised affair

Affair: Ulrika enjoyed her own dalliance with Hunter [real name James Crossley], in a much publicised affair

Affair: Ulrika enjoyed her own dalliance with Hunter [real name James Crossley], in a much publicised affair

Affair: Ulrika enjoyed her own dalliance with Hunter [real name James Crossley], in a much publicised affair

Star of the 1990s: Former bodybuilder King was recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series

Star of the 1990s: Former bodybuilder King was recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series

Star of the 1990s: Former bodybuilder King was recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series

His mother Nosheen Zarait and his brother Tariq Ali were contacted and told to pay £1,000 for his safe return, prosecutors claim. He was held from 2pm until his release at 8.30pm, it was alleged.

Prosecutor Keith Hadrill told the court that King, of Acton, and another man, Simon Batson, 38, had both admitted two charges of blackmail.

Batson’s girlfriend Donna Harman, 42, Otis Noel, 45, along with Michael Tyson, 55, and wife Shila, 55, all deny charges including false imprisonment, blackmail and aiding and abetting false imprisonment. Their trial continues.

Last October, shamed former Gladiator Mike Ahearne hit the headlines as a court heard that he was caught by police with shopping bags full of steroids and CS spray canisters.

The 59-year-old was a huge TV star as Warrior in the hit Saturday night show but fell from grace after he was jailed over a police corruption plot involving drug baron Curtis Warren and a detective chief inspector.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard police raided the former bodybuilder’s home in leafy Rose Mount, Oxton, Wirral on January 23, 2018.

Scandal: Last October, shamed former Gladiator Mike Ahearne hit the headlines as a court heard that he was caught by police with shopping bags full of steroids and CS spray canisters

Scandal: Last October, shamed former Gladiator Mike Ahearne hit the headlines as a court heard that he was caught by police with shopping bags full of steroids and CS spray canisters

Scandal: Last October, shamed former Gladiator Mike Ahearne hit the headlines as a court heard that he was caught by police with shopping bags full of steroids and CS spray canisters 

They retrieved a large stash of various anabolic steroids, contained in a plastic Tesco shopping bag, another carrier bag and two boxes.

Ahearne was arrested on suspicion of possessing the Class C drugs with intent to supply, but no charges were brought over the haul.

But he was charged over the CS spray and admitted three counts of possessing a weapon ‘designed or adapted for the discharge of a noxious liquid’. 

He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months, at Liverpool Crown Court in October 2018 for these offences.

Drama: Ahearne was arrested on suspicion of possessing the Class C drugs with intent to supply, but no charges were brought over the haul

Drama: Ahearne was arrested on suspicion of possessing the Class C drugs with intent to supply, but no charges were brought over the haul

Drama: Ahearne was arrested on suspicion of possessing the Class C drugs with intent to supply, but no charges were brought over the haul

Merseyside Police applied to the magistrates’ court for the steroids to be destroyed, under the The Police Property Act 1897. Ahearne wasn’t required to attend the hearing, having previously indicated that he did not wish for the property to be returned.

District Judge Jim Clark made an order for the steroids to be destroyed.

Ahearne, who played rugby union for England at youth level and represented Great Britain at Mr Universe, was a household name in the prime of his career.

Standing at 6ft 4in, the ex-doorman was one of the best known faces in Gladiators, as the programme attracted viewing figures as high as 14m at its peak.

Fall from grace: Ahearne, who played rugby union for England at youth level and represented Great Britain at Mr Universe, was a household name in the prime of his career

Fall from grace: Ahearne, who played rugby union for England at youth level and represented Great Britain at Mr Universe, was a household name in the prime of his career

Fall from grace: Ahearne, who played rugby union for England at youth level and represented Great Britain at Mr Universe, was a household name in the prime of his career

But after seven years earning up to £100,000-a-year, his world of celebrity and luxury came crashing down, when he was linked to a corruption scandal.

He was arrested on the afternoon of Thursday, March 13, 1997 and accused of involvement in a plot to foil the prosecution of Philip Glennon Jnr.

Glennon Jnr had been accused of firing a handgun at a bouncer and then a police officer outside a Liverpool nightclub in 1996 and was charged with attempted murder.

Glennon Jnr is the brother-in-law of Liverpool drugs baron Curtis Warren, who tried to foil the investigation by paying corrupt officer Detective Chief Inspector Elmore ‘Elly’ Davies £10,000, to pass on details of what the police knew about the incident, when a doorman was also shot.

Ahearne had passed money from Warren to his friend Davies – then head of Merseyside’s drugs squad – for information about the case.

Heyday: Standing at 6ft 4in, the ex-doorman was one of the best known faces in Gladiators, as the programme attracted viewing figures as high as 14m at its peak

Heyday: Standing at 6ft 4in, the ex-doorman was one of the best known faces in Gladiators, as the programme attracted viewing figures as high as 14m at its peak

Heyday: Standing at 6ft 4in, the ex-doorman was one of the best known faces in Gladiators, as the programme attracted viewing figures as high as 14m at its peak

Following a trial at Nottingham Crown Court in 1998, at which Ahearne decided not to give evidence, the TV star was convicted of an act with tendency to pervert the course of justice and jailed for 15 months.

Davies, also from Oxton, was jailed for five years, while a third man was jailed for three years. Glennon Jnr was previously jailed for six years for attempted murder.

The trial heard Mr Ahearne had been an avid charity supporter, with the Variety Club of Great Britain’s regional chairman issuing a statement in which he said: ‘If every celebrity in the country could do half as much as Mike for the children we would be a stronger organisation.’

Mr Ahearne was released from prison after just six months, having impressed bosses at Wealstun jail in West Yorkshire.

He returned to his home in Wirral, where he was the subject of an electronic tag. 

Past: He was previously arrested in 1997 and accused of involvement in a plot to foil the prosecution of Philip Glennon Jnr

Past: He was previously arrested in 1997 and accused of involvement in a plot to foil the prosecution of Philip Glennon Jnr

Past: He was previously arrested in 1997 and accused of involvement in a plot to foil the prosecution of Philip Glennon Jnr

Left to right: Wolf (Michael Van Wijk), Shadow (Jefferson King), host Ulrika Jonsson, Saracen (Mike Lewis), and Cobra (Michael; Wilson) for Season 3 of Gladiators, 1994

Left to right: Wolf (Michael Van Wijk), Shadow (Jefferson King), host Ulrika Jonsson, Saracen (Mike Lewis), and Cobra (Michael; Wilson) for Season 3 of Gladiators, 1994

Left to right: Wolf (Michael Van Wijk), Shadow (Jefferson King), host Ulrika Jonsson, Saracen (Mike Lewis), and Cobra (Michael; Wilson) for Season 3 of Gladiators, 1994

Blast from the past! As athletes from ITV show Gladiators congregated for a Good Morning Britain appearance in 2019, fans were left in shock at how different they looked

Blast from the past! As athletes from ITV show Gladiators congregated for a Good Morning Britain appearance in 2019, fans were left in shock at how different they looked

Blast from the past! As athletes from ITV show Gladiators congregated for a Good Morning Britain appearance in 2019, fans were left in shock at how different they looked

In 2019, athletes from Gladiators congregated for a Good Morning Britain appearance, leaving fans in shock at how different they looked.

Branding them ‘unrecognisable’, fans watched as Hunter [James Crossley], Panther [Helen O’Reilly], Jet [Diane Youdale], Lightning [Kim Betts] and Cobra [Michael Willson] joined Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard for a reunion chat. 

Cobra even turned up in a Lycra tank top, while the other stars went for more demure looks.

Fans on Twitter revelled in the reunion, with one posting: ‘Great to see the #gladiators back on TV… They’ve all aged a bit except Lightning, she looks the same and is still a stunner!’

Another remarked: ‘Cobra’s face has completely changed everyone else still looks [good] though!’

Another penned, ‘Who’s the one on the end he’s about 80?’ of Cobra, who sported his branded vest.

Reunion: Branding them 'unrecognisable', fans watched as Hunter [James Crossley], Panther [Helen O'Reilly]. Jet [Diane Youdale], Lightning [Kim Betts] and Cobra [Michael Willson] joined Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard for a reunion chat in 2019

Reunion: Branding them 'unrecognisable', fans watched as Hunter [James Crossley], Panther [Helen O'Reilly]. Jet [Diane Youdale], Lightning [Kim Betts] and Cobra [Michael Willson] joined Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard for a reunion chat in 2019

Reunion: Branding them ‘unrecognisable’, fans watched as Hunter [James Crossley], Panther [Helen O’Reilly]. Jet [Diane Youdale], Lightning [Kim Betts] and Cobra [Michael Willson] joined Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard for a reunion chat in 2019

Others left the judgement at the door and simply relished having the stars back on their screens.

‘Not sure why Gladiators was on #GMB but that has made my day. Best tv show of the 90’s!’ 

‘Some of the #Gladiators just been on #GMB – I forgot how much I loved the theme tune and that show. Nineties telly at its best,’ another posted. 

All dressed up: Showbiz reporter Richard Arnold dressed up as Gladiator referee John Anderson

All dressed up: Showbiz reporter Richard Arnold dressed up as Gladiator referee John Anderson

All dressed up: Showbiz reporter Richard Arnold dressed up as Gladiator referee John Anderson

In-vesting in the show: Cobra got his Lycra out of mothballs for the occasion

In-vesting in the show: Cobra got his Lycra out of mothballs for the occasion

 In-vesting in the show: Cobra got his Lycra out of mothballs for the occasion

Making her entrance: Jet led the stars as they recreated the legendary Gladiators entrance sequence

Making her entrance: Jet led the stars as they recreated the legendary Gladiators entrance sequence

Making her entrance: Jet led the stars as they recreated the legendary Gladiators entrance sequence

Making her entrance: Jet led the stars as they recreated the legendary Gladiators entrance sequence

Making her entrance: Jet led the stars as they recreated the legendary Gladiators entrance sequence

‘Gladiators are on #gmb and the women (Jet, Lightning and Panther) are still all amazing!! Plus Hunter and Cobra are still massive!! (cobra put your nipple away mate)’ another penned.

Discussing the show they were asked about a reboot. ‘There is a demand for it. But I am 58, I don’t know if I am a bit past it,’ Panther said, before pointing at Cobra and remarking: ‘He’s got a walking stick and two new hips.’

Asked about whether they still go by their Gladiator alter-egos, Hunter explained: ‘A lot of male Gladiators were called Mike. So if you said “Mike”, everybody turned around. 

Lightning added: ‘Even when I message them it’s like: “Hey Jet, Cobra, Hunter…” I never call them their own name.’ 

Gladiators: Where Are They Now?

Wolf: Michael Van Wijk 

Fan favourite: Wolf was deemed the most popular gladiator on the series, albeit controversial thanks to his mean persona

Fan favourite: Wolf was deemed the most popular gladiator on the series, albeit controversial thanks to his mean persona

Then and now: Michael now runs his own gym in Auckland, where he currently resides, which is named Wolf's Gym, after his Gladiators persona

Then and now: Michael now runs his own gym in Auckland, where he currently resides, which is named Wolf's Gym, after his Gladiators persona

Then and now: Michael now runs his own gym in Auckland, where he currently resides, which is named Wolf’s Gym, after his Gladiators persona

Name: Michael Van Wijk aka Wolf 

Age: 66

Occupation: Michael owns a gym called ‘Wolf’s Gym’ in Auckland, New Zealand where he now lives. He had owned gyms previously before finding fame on Gladiators

Gladiators history: He starred on the show for seven years and eight series throughout the entire time Gladiators aired on ITV. 

Fun facts: Wolf was deemed the most popular gladiator on the series, albeit controversial thanks to his mean persona

Ace: Warren Furman 

Time on the show: Four years after the show began in 1996, the blond hunk beat 60 other hopefuls for a place on Gladiators, where he stayed on the series until its end in 2000

Time on the show: Four years after the show began in 1996, the blond hunk beat 60 other hopefuls for a place on Gladiators, where he stayed on the series until its end in 2000

Change: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids

Change: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids

Change: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids

Name: Warren Furman

Age: 47

Occupation: Having turned his back on showbusiness, Warren found God and now runs a Gospel choir in York, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

Speaking on This Morning yesterday, he said: ‘I used to worship myself, I thought I was fantastic. I have now turned to God’s grace. I am a Gladiator of the gospel. 

‘You’ll never know God until you change your direction and so I realised this. It was great, we had loads of money and women, but I realised I had to change’.

Gladiator history: Four years after the show began in 1996, the blond hunk beat 60 other hopefuls for a place on Gladiators, where he stayed on the series until its end in 2000. He returned for the revival in 2008

Fun facts: Warren was engaged to Katie Price in the late Nineties, during which time they enjoyed a particularly lavish lifestyle. He previously said: ‘We travelled the world first class, went for expensive dinners, had big houses and fancy cars’, yet things later broke off acrimoniously. 

 

Amazon: Sharron Davies MBE 

Her time: Sharron joined the show in 1995 yet a knee injury forced her to withdraw from the show in 1996

Her time: Sharron joined the show in 1995 yet a knee injury forced her to withdraw from the show in 1996

Heading up: Prior to heading on to the show, Sharron was a swimmer for Great Britain in the Olympics and European championships

Heading up: Prior to heading on to the show, Sharron was a swimmer for Great Britain in the Olympics and European championships

Heading up: Prior to heading on to the show, Sharron was a swimmer for Great Britain in the Olympics and European championships

Name: Sharron Davies aka Amazon 

Age: 56

Occupation: Prior to heading on to the show, Sharron was a swimmer for Great Britain in the Olympics and European championships. She also competed for England in the Commonwealth Games. She has produced various fitness videos and served as a patron of charities for disabled children

Gladiator history: Sharron joined the show in 1995 yet a knee injury forced her to withdraw from the show in 1996. She famously complained of the health and safety aspects of the show

Fun fact: The blonde beauty enjoyed a stint on Dancing On Ice in 2011. The mother-of-three has remained in the spotlight, commentating on sporting events, presenting on the now-defunct Channel 4 show The Big Breakfast 

 

Jet: Diane Youdale 

On the show: Diane started out with a career in gymnastics and dance, before rising to stardom on Gladiators, but was later forced to take up presenting and acting after injuring herself

On the show: Diane started out with a career in gymnastics and dance, before rising to stardom on Gladiators, but was later forced to take up presenting and acting after injuring herself

Now: Diane has gone on to become a PE teaching assistant, before training as a pscyhotherapist

Now: Diane has gone on to become a PE teaching assistant, before training as a pscyhotherapist

Now: Diane has gone on to become a PE teaching assistant, before training as a pscyhotherapist

Name: Diane Youdale

Age: 47

Occupation: Diane started out with a career in gymnastics and dance, before rising to stardom on Gladiators, but was later forced to take up presenting and acting after injuring herself during the show’s live event held at Wembley Arena in 1996. 

She then went on to become a PE teaching assistant, before training as a pscyhotherapist.

Fun facts: With 20 years in psychology behind her, Diane has landed herself a regular slot on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side and is seen analysing the housemates – she has appeared on 33 episodes of the show.

 

The Rhino: Mark Smith

Funnyman: Rhino was deemed the joker of the Gladiator pack and would have the live audience in fits of giggles with his robotic dancing and body popping

Funnyman: Rhino was deemed the joker of the Gladiator pack and would have the live audience in fits of giggles with his robotic dancing and body popping

On the up: Since appearing on Gladiators, Mark has gone on to bag several acting roles, including appearances on EastEnders, The Bill and Robin Hood

On the up: Since appearing on Gladiators, Mark has gone on to bag several acting roles, including appearances on EastEnders, The Bill and Robin Hood

On the up: Since appearing on Gladiators, Mark has gone on to bag several acting roles, including appearances on EastEnders, The Bill and Robin Hood

Name: Mark Smith

Age: 49

Occupation: Since appearing on Gladiators, Mark has gone on to bag several acting roles, including appearances on EastEnders, The Bill and Robin Hood. He then set his sights on Hollywood and has featured on high-profile films including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Argo, which was directed by Ben Affleck and Frozen Ground, starring Nicholas Cage.

Gladiator history: Mark starred on the show from 1995 until its finale in 2000. 

Fun facts:  Rhino was deemed the joker of the Gladiator pack and would have the live audience in fits of giggles with his robotic dancing and body popping moves. Mark too had enjoyed a fling with show host Ulrika. 

 

Panther: Helen O’Reilly

Fitness fanatic: Helen is a champion bodybuilder and became one of Britain's best, with a number of accolades to her name including Miss Central Britain

Fitness fanatic: Helen is a champion bodybuilder and became one of Britain's best, with a number of accolades to her name including Miss Central Britain

Helping others: Helen now has her own gym in Uxbridge, London, where she preps other girls and travels all across the globe judging bikini girls

Helping others: Helen now has her own gym in Uxbridge, London, where she preps other girls and travels all across the globe judging bikini girls

Helping others: Helen now has her own gym in Uxbridge, London, where she preps other girls and travels all across the globe judging bikini girls

Name: Helen O’Reilly aka Panther

Age:  57

On Gladiators: ‘It was great, it inspired so many people into sport, to be able to be strong and feminine at the same time. We still get messages today, 25 years later, of people still being inspired to go to the gym.’

Occupation: Helen is a champion bodybuilder and became one of Britain’s best, with a number of accolades to her name including Miss Central Britain, Miss Europe, Miss Great Britain, Miss Russia and Miss Universe.

Fun facts: She now has her own gym in Uxbridge, London, where she preps other girls and travels all across the globe judging bikini girls, fitness girls and men’s physique and body building.

 

Shadow: Jefferson King 

Tumultuous: Jefferson's Gladiators career fell apart when he was ousted off the programme for taking steroids

Tumultuous: Jefferson's Gladiators career fell apart when he was ousted off the programme for taking steroids

On the up: Jefferson now works in a drug rehabilitation unit having overcome his own demons over the years

On the up: Jefferson now works in a drug rehabilitation unit having overcome his own demons over the years

On the up: Jefferson now works in a drug rehabilitation unit having overcome his own demons over the years

Name: Jefferson King

Age: 58

Occupation: He now works in a drug rehabilitation unit having overcome his own demons over the years

Gladiators history: Jefferson’s Gladiators career fell apart when he was ousted off the programme for taking steroids. Soon after the drug scandal a mistress sold a tale of his infidelity to a newspaper and his marriage broke down. 

He said at the time: ‘There is no excuse for cheating. I was mixing with drugs before Gladiators and when I was tested during the show there were no traces of cocaine but they found steroids’ 

Fun fact: Jefferson become a wrestler following his TV career and had a cameo role in the Spice Girls movie Spiceworld in 1997.

 

Lightning: Kim Betts

Strong: Lightning was known as the 'Queen of Hang Tough' and had remained undefeated in the UK Arena - asides from being beaten just once in Australia

Strong: Lightning was known as the 'Queen of Hang Tough' and had remained undefeated in the UK Arena - asides from being beaten just once in Australia

Now: Kim is a gymnast, bodybuilder and TV presenter

Now: Kim is a gymnast, bodybuilder and TV presenter

Strong: Lightning was known as the ‘Queen of Hang Tough’ and had remained undefeated in the UK Arena – asides from being beaten just once in Australia

Name: Kim Betts

Age: 47

Occupation: Kim is a gymnast, bodybuilder and TV presenter.

Gladiators history: She had starred on Gladiators from its launch in 1992 until its end in 2000, before returning for its revamp eight years later. She was the longest-serving female star of the show.

Fun facts:  Lightning was known as the ‘Queen of Hang Tough’ and had remained undefeated in the UK Arena – asides from being beaten just once in Australia. Kim had given birth to her son, Lexus, just three weeks before competing in 1999.

 

Hunter: James Crossley

Gladiator: James was the youngest Gladiator on the show and was just 19 when he started

Gladiator: James was the youngest Gladiator on the show and was just 19 when he started

Trainer: James is now currently working in the sports industry as a fitness instructor and personal trainer

Trainer: James is now currently working in the sports industry as a fitness instructor and personal trainer

Trainer: James is now currently working in the sports industry as a fitness instructor and personal trainer

Name: James Crossley

Age: 46

Occupation: James is now currently working in the sports industry as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, but had dabbled in acting following his time in Gladiators.

On Gladiators: ‘Discussing his time on the show, he said: ‘The first year I joined I couldn’t do anything – I locked myself away for a year to get better. You can be muscular and look good but it doesn’t mean you can climb those walls.’ 

Romantic life: James dated the show’s host Ulrika Jonsson, but the pair remained coy on their romance, until she uncovered all in her 2003 autobiography.

Fun facts: James was the youngest Gladiator on the show and was just 19 when he started.

 

Blaze: Eunice Huthart

Time on the show: Former McDonald's manager Eunice made her debut on the show in 1994 where she was originally a contender going against one of the Gladiators but became the first ever UK contestant to come a Gladiator

Time on the show: Former McDonald's manager Eunice made her debut on the show in 1994 where she was originally a contender going against one of the Gladiators but became the first ever UK contestant to come a Gladiator

New career: Eunice went on to become stunt doubles for A-listers including Angelina Jolie (pictured together, right), Milla Jovovich, Famke Janssen and Uma Thurman

New career: Eunice went on to become stunt doubles for A-listers including Angelina Jolie (pictured together, right), Milla Jovovich, Famke Janssen and Uma Thurman

New career: Eunice went on to become stunt doubles for A-listers including Angelina Jolie (pictured together, right), Milla Jovovich, Famke Janssen and Uma Thurman

Name: Eunice Huthart aka Blaze

Age: 52

Occupation: The Liverpudlian star went on to become stunt doubles for A-listers including Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Famke Janssen and Uma Thurman. She has starred in films including Golden Eye, Avengers and Titanic

Gladiators history: Former McDonald’s manager Eunice made her debut on the show in 1994 where she was originally a contender going against one of the Gladiators but became the first ever UK contestant to come a Gladiator.

Fun fact: Eunice frequently works alongside Angelina Jolie and the pair have become close friends. She is also godmother to Angelina and Brad Pitt’s daughter Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.

 

Cobra: Michael Wilson 

Champion: Thanks to his quick-thinking and agility he became a master of the Hang Tough ring

Champion: Thanks to his quick-thinking and agility he became a master of the Hang Tough ring

Artist: Now living in the West Midlands, Michael spends his time making watercolour paintings

Artist: Now living in the West Midlands, Michael spends his time making watercolour paintings

Artist: Now living in the West Midlands, Michael spends his time making watercolour paintings

Name: Michael Willson aka Cobra

Age: 55

Occupation: Now living in the West Midlands, Michael spends his time making watercolour paintings. He also travels to schools and youth clubs up and down the UK, promoting that keeping fit can be fun

Gladiator history: Thanks to his quick-thinking and agility he became a master of the Hang Tough ring and was also the best Duel podium contender having never been knocked off. He became a fan-favourite Gladiator alongside the likes of Shadow, Wolf, Jet, Lightning and Hunter. 

 Fun fact: Proving that good things can come in small packages, Cobra – whose real name is Michael Wilson – didn’t let his tiny height get in the way of victory. 

 

Nightshade: Judy Simpson

Lease of life: After retiring from professional sport, she joined Gladiators in 1993, under the alias Nightshade

Lease of life: After retiring from professional sport, she joined Gladiators in 1993, under the alias Nightshade

Happy days: Judy now spends her time working for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and is an Honorary President of the Women’s Sports Federation

Happy days: Judy now spends her time working for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and is an Honorary President of the Women’s Sports Federation

Happy days: Judy now spends her time working for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and is an Honorary President of the Women’s Sports Federation

Name: Judy Simpson aka Nightshade

Age: 58

Occupation: Judy now spends her time working for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and is an Honorary President of the Women’s Sports Federation. She has been awarded an MBE because of her sporting achievements.

Gladiator history: After retiring from professional sport, she joined Gladiators in 1993, under the alias Nightshade. She became renowned as one of the toughest female Gladiators ever. Her particular strengths were in Duel, Pole-Axe and Suspension Bridge

Fun fact: Jamaican-born Judy Simpson was one of Britain’s greatest all-round female athletes. The three-time Olympian competed in the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and World Championships. 

 

Vulcan: John Seru 

Villain: In order to give villain Wolf a run for his money, Australian Gladiator Vulcan was drafted in for seasons seven and eight of the British show

Villain: In order to give villain Wolf a run for his money, Australian Gladiator Vulcan was drafted in for seasons seven and eight of the British show

Changing ways: John owns a wrestling school, fitness shop and fitness centre that he has been running for 18 years in Sydney with his family

Changing ways: John owns a wrestling school, fitness shop and fitness centre that he has been running for 18 years in Sydney with his family

Changing ways: John owns a wrestling school, fitness shop and fitness centre that he has been running for 18 years in Sydney with his family

Name: John Seru

Age: 55

Occupation: John owns a wrestling school, fitness shop and fitness centre that he has been running for 18 years in Sydney with his family having previously enjoyed success as an actor

Gladiator history: In order to give villain Wolf a run for his money, Australian Gladiator Vulcan was drafted in for seasons seven and eight of the British show. The former bodybuilder and wrestler didn’t disappoint, showcasing his skills on the Duel platform and in the Gauntlet.

Fun fact: After he was talent spotted by an acting scout he scooped the role of a James Bond villain. He starred in the 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, playing henchman Gabor.

 

Rebel: Jennifer Stoute 

Competitor: She joined the show in 1996 as Rebel, but chose to continue with athletics while she was competing on the series. Jennifer later quit the show in 1999

Competitor: She joined the show in 1996 as Rebel, but chose to continue with athletics while she was competing on the series. Jennifer later quit the show in 1999

Career: Jennifer bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and now runs a management agency for athletes, Stellar Athletics

Career: Jennifer bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and now runs a management agency for athletes, Stellar Athletics

Career: Jennifer bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and now runs a management agency for athletes, Stellar Athletics

Name: Jennifer Stoute aka Rebel

Age: 54

Occupation: Jennifer had been a former sprinter, with a hamstring injury halting her career for two years in 1993. She bagged a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and now runs a management agency for athletes, Stellar Athletics

Gladiators history: She joined the show in 1996 as Rebel, but chose to continue with athletics while she was competing on the series. Jennifer later quit the show in 1999.

Fun facts: Jennifer had appeared alongside Russell Crowe in the blockbuster movie Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott.

 

Vogue: Suzanne Cox

Addition: She joined the show in 1995 and had stayed with the series until it came to an end after its eighth series in 2000

Addition: She joined the show in 1995 and had stayed with the series until it came to an end after its eighth series in 2000

Keeping it fit: Suzanne is now an aerobics instructor and had gone on to model and present TV show titled The Fix following Gladiators

Keeping it fit: Suzanne is now an aerobics instructor and had gone on to model and present TV show titled The Fix following Gladiators

Keeping it fit: Suzanne is now an aerobics instructor and had gone on to model and present TV show titled The Fix following Gladiators

Name: Suzanne Cox aka Vogue

Age: 47

Occupation: Suzanne is now an aerobics instructor and had gone on to model and present TV show titled The Fix following Gladiators.

Gladiators history: She joined the show in 1995 and had stayed with the series until it came to an end after its eighth series in 2000.

Fun facts: Suzanne is married to 1997 Gladiators quarter finalist Mark Roberts and they share two children together. She was a firm favourite among teenage boy viewers and was known for back-flipping while entering the arena to Vogue by Madonna.

Saracen: Michael Lewis

Love story: Michael and his girlfriend Chrissie, tried out for the Gladiators show in 1992, Chrissie becoming a first series contender and of course Saracen joining the team. They are now happily married

Love story: Michael and his girlfriend Chrissie, tried out for the Gladiators show in 1992, Chrissie becoming a first series contender and of course Saracen joining the team. They are now happily married

Different career: Micahel has swapped his spandex for fire gear as he is now a firefighter following years in the ring

Different career: Micahel has swapped his spandex for fire gear as he is now a firefighter following years in the ring

Different career: Micahel has swapped his spandex for fire gear as he is now a firefighter following years in the ring

Name: Michael Lewis aka Saracen 

Age: 55

Occupation: He has swapped his spandex for fire gear as he is now a firefighter following years in the ring

Gladiators history: Michael and his girlfriend Chrissie, tried out for the Gladiators show in 1992, Chrissie becoming a first series contender and of course Saracen joining the team. They are now happily married.

Fun fact: Mike tackled the tough Ninja Warrior course

Warrior: Mike Ahearne 

Incarceration: Mike, left, was jailed for 15 months after being found guilty of corruption and perverting the course of justice alongside Merseyside detective Elmore Davie

Incarceration: Mike, left, was jailed for 15 months after being found guilty of corruption and perverting the course of justice alongside Merseyside detective Elmore Davie

Incarceration: Mike, left, was jailed for 15 months after being found guilty of corruption and perverting the course of justice alongside Merseyside detective Elmore Davie

Name: Mike Ahearne 

Age: 58

Occupation: Ahearne played rugby union for England at youth level before becoming a decorated bodybuilder. He now owns a gym. 

Gladiators history: The 6ft 4in former runner-up Mr Britain and ex-Mr Universe competitor became one of the stars of ITV’s Gladiators, competing on seasons 1-6.

Police run-ins: After the sixth series in 1997, he was sacked from the show after being arrested for a firearms offence.

The following year he was jailed for 15 months after being found guilty of corruption and perverting the course of justice alongside Merseyside detective Elmore Davie

And referee John Anderson…

Keeping them in check: John had been the show's iconic referee and personally trained the gladiators on the show

Keeping them in check: John had been the show's iconic referee and personally trained the gladiators on the show

Continuing: John has continued to mentor and coach athletics stars in his later years, first starting out as a trainer prior to appearing on Gladiators

Continuing: John has continued to mentor and coach athletics stars in his later years, first starting out as a trainer prior to appearing on Gladiators

Keeping them in check: John had been the show’s iconic referee and personally trained the gladiators on the show

Name: John Anderson

Age: 87

Occupation: John has continued to mentor and coach athletics stars in his later years, first starting out as a trainer prior to appearing on Gladiators.

On the show: ‘They were very good, they were professionals. They did everything very well, they were easy to work with. I was delighted to work with them,’ he said yesterday.

Gladiators history: John joined the show when it first launched in 1992 and stayed with it until it wrapped in 2000. He reprised his role as referee back in 2008 when the show returned.

Fun facts: John has trained an Olympian at every summer games between 1964 and 2000. He has also enjoyed success as a footballer and played for Scotland.

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