USF alumnus competes to ‘be the hardest worker in the room’ on new series with The Rock

By Amelio Nazarko, Correspondent
On January 9, 2019

For Thong La, fitness and pursuing his goals has always been one of his passions. Having the opportunity to meet one of his idols was an added bonus. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/THONG LA

Working hard to reach his goals, especially in fitness, is something that Thong La, a recent USF alumnus, said he has always been passionate about.

Now, La will use his passion as one of 64 men and women who compete in The Titan Games, a competition series on NBC that airs Thursday at 8 p.m. and is produced by one of his idols, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The Titan Games, which premiered Jan. 3, features contestants battling against each other in challenges that test the competitors’ athletic abilities and will to succeed.

The competitors battle in the Titan Arena and advance to Mt. Olympus until one man and one woman win the title of Titan Champion and $100,000 each.

Johnson and the show’s other producers were seeking out ordinary people living normal lives who are also extremely physically fit to compete. This included La, who works for Space Machine & Engineering Corp. and power lifts both competitively and as a passion.

Johnson has been a long-time inspiration for La, and he even has one of Johnson’s quotes, “Be the hardest worker in the room,” on his desk at work.

La said once he discovered on social media that the show was searching for competitors, he applied because he felt all of the hard work he’s put into lifting made him a well-prepared candidate. It would also award him the opportunity to meet one of his idols and be able to shake his hand.

“I had this feeling that I had the personality to get the attention of anyone who would be watching me,” La said. “Consistent hard work will be noticed.”

La and over 100 other potential contestants first tried out at a combine that tested the selected applicants’ athletic ability. It was then narrowed down to 64 people who were chosen to compete in the official games.

“I got a phone call saying I was one of the 64 contestants selected by The Rock and NBC to compete on The Titan Games,” said La. “It was a very surreal moment.”

La said he started lifting in college as a form of stress relief.

“It started as something I did for fun, but once I started seeing results I got more focused,” La said.

Now, La power lifts competitively and his success in other competitions gave him the confidence he needed to perform in the games.

La competed in his first powerlifting competition in the USPA (United States Powerlifting Association).

“I ended up taking first place at my first competition on my 23rd birthday. That’s where it all started,” La said.

Although, the show is designed to test all facets of the mind and body. La said he had to make some adjustments to his routine and stray from what he was comfortable with.

“With powerlifting, you don’t really work out cardio or agility stuff,” La said. “You focus on the three big lifts, which is the bench, squat and deadlift.”

Seeing as though the nature of The Titan Games is far different from his experience in powerlifting competitions, La said he wasn’t sure what lied ahead.

“I didn’t know what to expect in terms of training for the show,” La said. “I did my normal powerlifting training and added things like running with a weighted vest or I would go outside of my gym and jump on tires.”

La said that an important skill he learned from competing in The Titan Games was adaptability and becoming “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

He recalled how overwhelming the experience was of actually being in the competition and stressed how important it was that he put one of The Rock’s most famous sayings, “Stay focused,” into practice.

“I had to blur everything out,” La said. “Everything else around me disappeared, even my opponent.”

La says that despite everyone facing off against each other, there was a welcoming and loving atmosphere among the contestants.

“Me and the Titans are a family,” La said. “It’s crazy to be put in a group where everyone has the same goals. We were all so comfortable around each other.”

For La, The Titan Games was a thrilling experience and he says he will maintain the same level of motivation and dedication that led him to this point.

La’s coach, Trevor Jaffe, said that it was always clear to him that La was willing to put in the work to achieve his goals.

Jaffe added that once La became interested in The Titan Games, he tested his own limits even more.

“Thong was always a hard-working athlete,” Jaffe said. “The Titan Games gave him even more passion to push his limits and a desire to motivate others to theirs. He’s an emerging leader and there’s no stopping him.”

La said that with the right motivation, reaching your goals is something that is always within reach, no matter the circumstance

“You just have to want it,” La said. “In college, I was always getting busier and busier, but I still made time to go to the gym. If you want something bad enough, you will fit it into your schedule.”

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