In a game in which losing is winning, Knoxville’s Ashley Johnston came up just short of being the biggest winner on “The Biggest Loser” Tuesday night.
Johnston, a 28-year-old esthetician, finished in second place, beating one of her two fellow finalists on the NBC weight-loss reality show, but losing the $250,000 grand prize to Michael Ventrella during a live weigh-in on Tuesday. Johnston, who started the show at 374 pounds, weighed 191 pounds Tuesday. Her weight loss was 48.93 percent — good enough to best fellow finalist Daris George, who dropped from 346 pounds to 178 pounds for a loss of 48.55 percent. Yet Ventrella went from 526 pounds to 262 pounds for a loss of 50.19 percent.
Of the experience Johnston said on the show, “I’m very proud of myself, I’ve loved every minute of this. I’m so happy.”
Ventrella said he was honored to face Johnston at the end: “She’s one of the strongest women I’ve ever met in my life, strong and beautiful.”
The finalists were among 22 contestants on the show that featured teams of two: Ashley’s partner was her mother, Sherry Johnston, also of Knoxville. While Ashley was the heaviest woman at the beginning of the show, which debuted Jan. 5, Sherry was the lightest player with a starting weight of 218 pounds.
Sherry Johnston, who was voted off in the March 16 episode, was in the running for a $100,000 prize awarded to the eliminated contestant with the highest-percentage weight loss among the 19. Her weight was down to 119 pounds Tuesday night, for a loss of more than 45 percent. That figure had her in the lead for the first 14 weigh-ins, though ultimately she lost the prize to Koli Palu, who dropped 215 pounds, from 403 to 188.
The Johnstons were partly inspired to be on the show as a means of coping with the death to cancer of Ashley’s father and Sherry’s husband, Ken Johnston, some 11 years ago. Their original team color on the show was pink, and Ashley Johnston picked up the nickname “The Pink Ninja.”
Ashley Johnston, who admits to being a bit a of a party girl in Knoxville before she went on the show, had many struggles during the competition, including an ongoing battle with the treadmill, the pain of seeing her mother and friends voted out of the competition, notorious struggles during challenges and a sobering diagnosis of diabetes. But she always fought through the setbacks and in last week’s episode even completed a 26.2-mile marathon. On the April 20 episode, she declared, “I will sneak up and win this.”
Although she fell short of that goal, she lost more weight on the “Biggest Loser” ranch than any other woman in the history of the show, which has been on for nine seasons.
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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