An interview with Sam Bond - Sky 1 TV Gladiator Atlas
by Jon Harris

Sam, congratulations on becoming one of the new Gladiators, a dream for hundreds if not thousands of sportsmen and women across the country. It's a particularly special achievement within the bodybuilding world as you yourself are a competitive natural bodybuilder. So, tell us Sam, how did you first hear about the new series and what made you decide to audition?

Thank you Jon. I was lying in bed enjoying what would have been one of my very few "lie-ins" during the working week (God bless flexitime) and I received a phone call from my aunty. She told me there was to be a new series, and was encouraging me to apply. This was something that I was certainly keen to do, and before I could even do any research on the net or contact anyone, I received several phone calls and texts from other friends and family saying the same thing. You even posted something similar on this site I believe?

So I made the time to look on the net that week to try to find out how to audition as a Gladiator. Alas, I couldn't find anything. Also, it seemed anyone who did know anything kept their cards quite close to their chest, which I found a little peculiar (being polite there!) Eventually, I accepted the rumours that you had to be invited to audition as a Gladiator as a frustrating truth. I had not been approached, therefore would need to pursue a different avenue to reach my goal, that goal being a Gladiator of course. I applied to be a contender, went through the auditioning process, and made sure the producers knew that I wanted the opportunity to be considered as a Gladiator.

Have you always wanted to become a TV Gladiator?

Since it finished in 2000, I haven't really thought about it, unless I saw it on the TV. But I would always have said yes to this, as I'm sure most of us would have! The original Gladiators definitely sparked something off for me, along with those Arnie films. Afterwards, I knew I wanted to build and train.

You used to use the nickname "Heman", is there some history to this?

I was given the name at Uni by friends. They even bought me the sword for my 20th birthday. It made all sorts of noises and battle effects etc. Great fun. Having a nickname is just a lot of fun for bodybuilding, especially if you can be known straight away, and be easily identified because of it. Makes posing a little more interesting when creating your routine too.

What were the auditions like and what were some of the physical tests you had to complete?

Nothing like the original series, thank goodness. As said before, I went through the contender auditions, which were slightly different to the Gladiator trials. It was more like a school sports day than a physically gruelling fitness test. If you had a basic level of fitness and strength you could score well. A lot was down to agility and technique. Lots of people scored well on the tests, so to get through you had to demonstrate and display other attributes. I'll admit I tried to play up to the camera just a little! The tests included some crab walking, crocodile crawling and medicine ball throwing.

Did you have time to train for the auditions? If so, what kind of physical preparation did you do?

Nope. It all came about very quickly. I was hoping that the fitness trials were going to coincide with some contest preparation further down the line this year (2008), so that I would be more prepared. Turns out I didn't have it nor need it. But I would always like to be bigger, fitter, stronger and more powerful at any given time. I will be even better for the second series if there is one.

How many interviews did you have, and what were they like?

The whole process felt so slow at the time, but now I look back at it I can see just how quick it was. It would seem I would travel to London for one interview, which was closely followed by another call with good news, but asking to see me again within the next few days.

The toughest bits about the interviews were trying to talk tough, in a very stale environment, without using bad language. Imagine being in a conference room, sat in front of a camera, with nothing but the dry humming of the air conditioning and the faint mutter of telephone conversations just outside. It involved some serious acting, which is where I didn't feel so confident. I remember on one meeting with a camera barrel I began laughing. The producer asked me to show a mean and intimidating face, which I did. She then asked me to do another, but even more scary; the scariest face I could do. I think I just pulled the exact same face but held it for a little longer. I felt like a bit of a chump!

How long did you have to wait before they told you that you'd made it? Where were you when you got the call, and how did it feel when you heard the news?

As I said before, it felt like a lifetime, but the whole process didn't take more than four weeks I guess. I had cut my chest workout short as it wasn't going well, stepped into my car and got the call. Nearly deafened the sweet girl delivering the good news on the phone, and near-on ripped my steering wheel from the dashboard. I was over the moon. It still hasn't really sunk in if I'm honest!

What was the reaction from your friends and family?

I only told a few people when I got the news. The producers asked me to keep it quiet so that they could control the press releases and publicity. As I was going to be away for some time, I told everyone I had got onto the show as a reserve contender. I think most people read between the lines but were all very supportive and discrete. Since I've been known officially as a Gladiator, everyone has been really great and my phone hasn't stopped ringing or beeping. I feel pretty bad that I've not had more time for everyone who has congratulated me.

What's life been like since? I suppose you've had to give up your job and move out of your house?

I've been staying in South West London for the training, and will be for the filming. Then I'll go back to Bournemouth for a little while to take stock of it all. I've taken long term leave from the RNLI where I worked. They too have been very supportive. I'll need to give my future some serious thought soon I guess. I have my feet firmly on the ground but this may present new opportunities, so we shall see what happens.

What are the other new Gladiators like?

From a sporting side, I feel like such an underachiever! I'm living with and working closely with top athletes! These guys and girls are just incredible, such natural and competent athletes. Everyone takes to every event so naturally. You could put any of us on any event and we could do well. I feel really humble being part of such a great team, and being with them all is so refreshing. Talking through training regimes with competitors from other fields and disciplines presents a really big learning curve for me. The girls are awesome too. I think half of them could give me a run for my money!

On a personal level, everyone is great. How the characters interact come show-time is something we shall all have to wait and see. But everyone looks out for everyone, and they are all very friendly.

Atlas is a great name. Did they come up with it beforehand or was it chosen after you were picked?

This was one of the last names to be chosen I think. The production team came up with it and I'm more than happy with it. Atlas was a Greek giant. A Titan. He was king of the skies. I'm quite looking forward to playing on the name when on Hang Tough or The Wall. There were a few discussions about names for me, and I was asked to suggest some. Heman couldn't be used due to obvious legal reasons, so the Greek history books were pulled out for their new hero. Ha-ha.

Have you had chance to meet or train with any of the old series Gladiators?

At the photo-shoot for the press release, we met both Jet and Hunter. They were both very nice and great fun. I challenged Hunter to a duel or race up the wall when being interviewed on camera by Jet. Let's see if he accepts! The old Gladiators have so much experience and knowledge to impart. I could pick their brains for days I'm sure. There is a lot more to these events than it may seem. I hope we will get to meet them all on the events soon, and between thee and me... watch this space!

Can you tell us a little more about the events in the new series?

As it stands for this series, the events are: Duel, Hit and Run, Hang Tough (all now over water), Pyramid, Earthquake, Gauntlet, Powerball and The Wall. Being so high on the Duel over water can be really disorientating. This game could go either way for the Gladiators and contenders. Earthquake is more difficult than it looks as well. The Gladiator and contender attempt to wrestle each other off a moving platform a few metres off the ground. One minute you can be at the advantage, about to win, and suddenly you're on lower ground falling backwards. The trick is to stay low without putting your knee down.

The Wall presents certain challenges. I can smear quickly up most commercial climbing walls, but the wall in the studio has very few handgrips. You get to one part of the wall about half way up and it's just sparse. No handgrips within reach anywhere. One fairly risky technique is to jump for the next grip. Good fun, but it's very risky! All of the events are a lot of fun, but much more taxing and technical than they look on TV. Of course, I hope I'll make them look easy!

What's your training and diet regime like now, and is it much different to how you used to train and diet for bodybuilding?

Since being here training on the events for three weeks, I think I've trained with weights a total of three times. Even then, the sessions were so short I left feeling like I'd just got started. For the 5-6 weeks that I'm here I'm not a bodybuilder. I'm a Gladiator. That means I do what is required of me for the show, effectively forsaking my own training. This was explained to us very early on by John Anderson and his team.

We really risk over-training whilst here, so it's important to rest as much as we can. When you're playing on Hang Tough and running the Gauntlet several times a day, your body starts to pick up small injuries. You can't train for these events in the gym, so it's all novel exercise. Therefore, we were all required to stop our own training to ensure we were able to perform on the events.

Not training with weights nor being able to follow our own regime (which got us here in the first place) presented some real issues for the entire team. Whilst we accepted what John said and respected his wisdom as the director of training, conflict still goes on in your head when you want to train but can't. Ultimately, the general public wont spot if my biceps are slightly out of proportion to my triceps, or if my chest isn't as full as it was eight weeks ago. You guys on this site might be critical of course, but by the time the show is on the TV I will be back in full force, and goodness knows I'm motivated now if I wasn't before!

The production team have switched on pretty quickly to our dietary requirements after I approached them several times about the matter. Wherever we go now we are catered for to a reasonable degree. That extra mile is all down to ourselves and how we make the most of being in each situation.

I heard you've been battling with a few injuries of late, what are they and how are they bearing up?

It was so annoying. After competing in 2006 and losing pretty much all love of bodybuilding, after seeing my muscles waste away while the fat remained, I took some time off. After about two or three months I was ready to tackle it all again, but pretty much immediately found myself with a partially torn brachialis and a major rip in my left pectoral. Just when these were recovering toward the end of 2007, I went and pulled my outer thigh. I just couldn't believe my luck. The outer thigh I'm still rehabilitating, and after the show I'll take a few weeks off from leg training to make sure it's well recovered.

People are already comparing you to Hunter from the old series. How do you feel about this?

Hunter was the best of the old Gladiators. If I can parallel him or even better him on the events I'll be very happy. He is a good-looking guy too, so it's not exactly an insult is it!

So, is John Anderson as strict in real life as he is on the telly?

Yep, he runs a tight ship. But it's expected and necessary. But he's a really nice guy. Very friendly, very wise, and has a great sense of humour.

Can you give us some stats? What's your height and weight?

Height: 6 feet. Weight: Anywhere between 104 and 108 kg throughout the week. It really varies between day to day and AM to PM.

Arms are currently about 18.5 inches. Should be bigger of course, and will be soon!

So, have they given you strict orders not to cut your hair?

Yep, they said they like my look and didn't want me to change it. I will probably let it grow longer for the second series.

As a natural bodybuilder, you'll be familiar with drug-testing in competition. Are the Gladiators being drug-tested too?

All of the Gladiators and contenders were given a surprise drug test at the auditions, to same standard as we are for bodybuilding. It may sound weird, but it was a nice surprise.

Will we ever see Sam Bond on a bodybuilding stage again? Do you still want to win the British title?

I will be winning the British titles in the next few years if all goes well. This may or may not change things for me, but I still intend to compete and get the best natural titles out there. I can't see that changing anytime soon, but who knows what the immediate future holds? As for this year, we shall have to see.

Have you got any sporting heroes?

I've often wondered if I have a sporting hero or role model for any aspect of my life. Ultimately, there are so many people that I admire and respect, but I don't think that any one person has yet to be classified as a complete role model. Of course, the old Gladiators and Arnie had a massive influence in my earlier days.

So Sam, how do you feel about being a new pin-up for thousands of adoring female fans?

Well I don't actually think I'm going to be the pin up to be honest. Tornado and Spartan are certainly going to be popular. I guess it would be cool though. I officially signed my first breast within minutes of coming off stage on the first show. And that was just the walk-ons I hadn't even done an event!

You've been very successful at bodybuilding and now at becoming a Gladiator. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to succeed at sport?

Well firstly, thank you now for saying I've been successful, I will take that as a huge compliment coming from a World Champion. It's not a question anyone can answer quickly, but I'll try. Your focus determines your reality, and where your mind goes your body will follow. So anything and everything in your life has happened because you've attracted it. Therefore, anything is possible and dreams are achievable no matter what.

Is there anyone you would like to thank?

I make an effort to thank everyone I think necessary, or I'd like to when the opportunity presents itself. But that's not always possible, so I'll say now "Thank you to anyone who has supported me and or congratulated me.