‘The Pitbull’

Andzulis 1st female winner on NBC’s ‘The Titan Games’

Emily “The Pitbull” Andzulis shared her progress on her professional Facebook page while preparing for her TV appearance on NBC’s “The Titan Games.”
Emily Andzulis certainly made it clear why her nickname is “The Pitbull” when she became the first female victor on NBC’s “The Titan Games.”

The show, developed and hosted by former wrestler and movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, set “everyday people” against each other in unique and demanding physical challenges.

Andzulis, who dug in to win and beat two other women in the show’s first episode Thursday, Jan. 3, did not disappoint.

Through a crazy “blind tug-of-war” event, then an obstacle course climb up “Mount Olympus,” the 26-year-old with Hardin Valley ties barreled through the competition, leaving her competitors behind.

It was still tough, with Andzulis describing one event as “being one of the toughest battles I’ve ever experienced.”

She also said the pressure of competing was exponentially magnified by having to do it before a live audience.

“It was absolutely overwhelming,” she said. “I think that was the real test — to see if you could perform under that pressure.”

The Florida native certainly rose to the occasion. A massage therapist who worked until recently at Pure Luxe Salon in Hardin Valley, Andzulis is a “lifelong” athlete. It started with martial arts as a child, where she earned her pitbull reputation and nickname.

“I got it in Jiu Jitsu — I beat all the guys up,” she said. “And I’m short and stalky like a Pitbull.”

Andzulis said physical fitness has always been more than a hobby to her. “It is a lifestyle. It is always who I have been, and I have never thought of not doing it,” she said.

She first answered “The Titans Games” call nearly a year ago by applying, then was one of hundreds who met in July in a “combine” situation where potential candidates were evaluated for their prowess and interviewed for their background stories.

She said meeting show host Johnson “was amazing. He is exactly how you think he would be — he was very nice and very professional.”

Andzulis’ own back story is a powerful one. Always close to her sister, Sharon Shepard, they were both devastated when Shepard received a bone cancer diagnosis more than five years ago.

“We grew up doing martial arts together — we really did everything together,” Andzulis said. “The diagnosis just stopped us in our tracks — it was just a huge gut punch.”

Harder still was the fact that a necessary shin bone transplant forced Shepard to give up the physical activities they had both always enjoyed.

While Shepard continued to be her sister’s biggest cheerleader and encouraged her to continue pursuing what was once their shared passion, Andzulis said, “It almost made me feel guilty, every day to do stuff without her.

“She never told me not to go, but it was hard being gone from her all the time,” she added.

“I could have been discouraged and stopped, but she always wanted me to continue doing what I love to do.”

With that support as a springboard, Andzulis found herself among the 64 candidates chosen for “The Titan Games.”

Shepard, who is now cancer-free and has two children, was on the sideline cheering her on yet again during the show’s taping.

Andzulis’ show was the first in what will be a 10-show run, culminating in one man and one woman being crowned Titan Champion.

She said the finales have been filmed, but she is sworn to secrecy about the outcome.

Regardless, Andzulis made at least one long-term friend while she was on the show — her boyfriend and fellow competitor Matt Cable, whom she met last July, and who recently was deployed for military service as a member of the Air National Guard.

“I am already ready for another opportunity to compete, if that happens,” she said. “The pressure was unreal, but it was also amazing and I would do it all again.”

Looking ahead, “I am not sure what will come, but I’m willing to take on any challenges.”