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Evan Dollard and Monica Carlson claim 'American Gladiators' title


By Christopher Rocchio, 02/18/2008 

Evan Dollard and Monica Carlson were revealed to be American Gladiators male and female champions during last night's finale broadcast of the campy reality series' primetime revival on NBC.

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As American Gladiators' first-season champions, Evan and Monica each received $100,000, a 2008 Toyota Sequoia, and the opportunity to become professional gladiators for the show's Summer 2008 second season.

Evan, a 25-year-old retail manager from Chicago, IL, completed the Eliminator -- a timed obstacle course that contenders competed in at the end of each episode -- at 1:19, beating the previous record of 1:23 he had set during the semifinal round.

"This is so awesome!  I didn't think I could beat that 1:23," said Evan following his victory.  "I was just trying to go steady and strong, but the adrenaline got a hold of me... It just took over me.  I just exploded out of every single one of these obstacles."

Evan defeated Alex Rai, a 25-year-old high school history teacher and wrestling coach from Rosemead, CA, during American Gladiators finale.

"Evan is a fantastic, awesome competitor.  He deserves to be the American Gladiators champion," said a humble Evan following his loss.  "I win graciously, I lose graciously.  It was an awesome experience, and I just want to thank everybody for cheering me on."

Monica, a 32-year-old mother of twin girls from Milwaukie, OR, completed the Eliminator in 1:53 and defeated ShaNay Norvell, a 31-year-old life wellness trainer in Atlanta, GA.

"I feel amazing!  I'm so tired!" exclaimed Monica after crossing the finish line and being joined by her husband Chad and their twin daughters. 

"I couldn't be more proud," said Chad.  "It's a great, special moment for her and for our family.  She was tough today."

American Gladiators finale broadcast included the four finalists each competing in five events prior to the Eliminator.

The first event was Hang Tough, which saw Monica and Shanay compete against Valerie "Siren" Waugaman, who obviously brought her A-game for the finale and didn't allow either women to score any points.  Evan and Alex went up against Don "Wolf" Yates, who was able to block Alex from scoring but then lost his grip when chasing Evan, allowing him to score 10 points when he reached the gladiator's platform.

In Assault, Shanay got hit off the helmet by Robin "Hellga" Coleman after scoring three points.  Monica faired much better, hitting the bulls eye with her first shot and collecting the full 10 points.  Justice "Justice" Smith was able to quickly hit Alex -- who only scored one point -- and Evan once again took advantage of a gladiator's mistake when Justice's gun jammed.  Evan hit the target with his second shot and scored another 10 points.

Joust was an event the gladiators excelled in.  Gina "Crush" Carano delivered some serious blows to Monica and knocked her off the platform right before time expired.  Shanay faired a little better, as she was able to stay low and collect five points for remaining on the platform for the entire 30 seconds.

Mike "Titan" O'Hearn -- who entered the Joust with an undefeated record -- kept that streak intact.  He knocked Evan off the platform in 1.8 seconds and did the same to Alex in 4.4 seconds.

The gladiators also dominated in Pyramid, as Crush stopped Shanay from scoring any points while Beth "Venom" Horn didn't allow Monica to score any points either.  Tanoia "Toa" Reed also prevented Evan from scoring, and Romeo "Mayhem" Williams only gave up five points when Alex was able to briefly get in the scoring zone.

The final event before the Eliminator was The Wall, and it was time for the quick contenders to illustrate their speed.  Monica was able to get up the wall without Siren pulling her down for a full 10 points, while Shanay also alluded Venom but got to the top after Monica, scoring five points.

Evan -- who NBC billed as "an avid rock climber" that "teaches rock climbing as a hobby" -- blazed up the wall for an easy 10 points without Wolf even coming close to stopping him.  Alex was also able to remain out of the reach of Alex "Militia" Castro to reach the top of The Wall, scoring five points.

Entering the Eliminator, Evan had a 30 to 11 lead over Alex, which represented a 9.5-second head start on the obstacle course.  Considering Evan had the course's previous record, Alex didn't stand a chance, as Evan quickly completed the event to take home the title.

"I wanted this to be a special moment for my family, my friends, everybody watching at home.  Especially for my mom," said an emotional Evan, whose mom passed away due to brain cancer a few years ago.  "I love her.  I was doing that for her.  I was emotional before the start of this thing... Now look at me.  I'm a wreck."

Monica had a 20 to 13 lead over Shanay, representing a 3.5-second head start, but Shanay was able to quickly close that gap as the two made their way up the 30-foot cargo net.  Monica then gave Shanay a chance when she fell off the hand bike -- but Shanay fell too and was unable to take advantage of the opening, allowing Monica to cruise to the finish line.

"I felt great [going up the cargo net] because I actually saw myself coming up on Monica -- my peripheral caught her -- and I'm like, 'Oh my God!  The 3.5, I made it up already!'" said Shanay following her finish, further explaining trying to catch-up made her "winded."  "But I know I'm a champion.  I know I'm a winner... I didn't quit."

Evan and Monica have presumably already begun training to compete as professional gladiators for the show's upcoming second installment.

"I think actually, that both of them have potential and strength that they could add to the team. And I think they're still going to have to go through rigorous training and tryouts with the rest of us, you know, just to prepare," Siren told reporters during a conference call last Wednesday. 

"It's different when you're a gladiator and you have to put your game face on and your 100% effort every single day, every single event. That's a lot different than just being a contender for one day."

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