The journey that began for Oahu-born Hawaiian Electric Co. lineman Cyril “Zeus” Ontai III on Feb. 10, with the premiere of the second season of the CBS reality show “Tough as Nails,” came to a bittersweet end this week as the 29-year-old power-line technician placed second in the three-way “final challenge” Wednesday that determined the overall winner in the aptly-named competition.
“Second overall is pretty good,” Ontai said modestly after the show aired Wednesday. “Of course, I wish it was first, but it’s all good. First, second or third place, it was an awesome experience.”
Scott Henry, a 40-year-old construction superintendent from Utah, was the first to break through a wall with a sledgehammer, use a jackhammer to release a bolt cutter from a concrete block, cut through a chain-link fence, stack up 10 lobster traps to climb to the top of a shipping container, saw through a chain to drop an I-beam and cross a gap, and then untangle two marine lines to pull up a ladder in order to reach the grand prize — a Ford Super Duty truck — atop a shipping container.
Henry also won a “Tough As Nails” champion belt and $200,000 cash.
Sarah Burkett, a 41-year-old mechanical pipe welder and former police officer, finished third.
Ontai, Burkett and Henry were three of the 12 competitors who had tested their strength, speed, endurance and mental toughness against each other and in six-person teams. Unlike most reality show competitions, contestants who were eliminated as individuals continued to compete — and win additional prizes — during team competitions.
Ontai won $9,200 as a member of the Dirty Hands team.
“I really enjoyed the finale challenge (directing a crane operator to position six metal beams in a metal frame structure),” he said. “That one was really fun probably because it was the closest thing to my line of work, so I felt pretty good in that regard, but I had a lot of fun doing it. I just love working at heights. It’s just something that’s in me.”
“The most difficult challenge for me that was pretty mentally challenging was the sheep challenge (herding four sheep into a marked pen). It didn’t take much of your physical energy, but mentally it was draining and a little frustrating. But in the end we got through it.”
Back here at home Ontai has been promoted from lineman to technical trainer sharing his knowledge and experience with new classes of apprentice linemen.
“It’s always been a dream job of mine. There are times I miss being out there, just like I miss playing football (in high school), but in the long run with this new position I think my body will be in much better shape.”
CBS renewed “Tough as Nails” on Wednesday for two more seasons. Ontai said he’s ready to go if the producers schedule an “all-star” season.
“I am hoping that we will be invited back to compete with the people in the other seasons,” he said. “That would be awesome.”
Casting for the upcoming seasons is in progress. For more information, go to toughasnailscbscasting.com.