'Biggest Loser' contestant not letting rivals get to him

John Rhode doesn't let the snarky remarks of his opponents on The Biggest Loser intimidate him.

In last week's episode, his rivals made it clear to millions of TV viewers that Rhode was the guy to beat in the endurance race.

It was no ordinary hike, either. The five finalists strapped on weights that added the pounds that they shed during the past weeks of the reality show's Season 12 on NBC.

Then they had to race to the top of a steep hill, stopping at various checkpoints where they were able to shed a portion of the weights.

But Rhode, a Kennewick High grad who lives in Mesa, Ariz., proved he is one tough cookie. He had the most weight to carry, yet he made to the top of the hill first.

"No one could catch me because I am the biggest loser," Rhode quipped when he talked with the Herald last week. "I've broken all the records and never squandered a second of hard work to get where I am."

On Tuesday, the show will announce the three finalists. The winner will be announced during the Saturday finale.

"There was no way I was going to fall below the yellow line where it would mean I'd be eligible to be voted off the show," Rhode said. "And, I can't allow myself to be concerned what any of my opponents say about me just because I'm the most dominant loser on the show."

Hazel Rhode, John's mother and a Kennewick resident, said it did bother her when John's competitors spoke out against him in earlier episodes of the show.

"But now I'm able to see the behavior for what it is," she said. "They see John as their biggest challenge, and it's (understandable) in a competition to want to take out the biggest threat. I actually chuckled at the chatter in this last episode.

"When John was going up the hill with more added weight than anyone else, he must have had a plan, and it paid off," she added. "He continues to amaze me."

Rhode weighed 445 pounds when The Biggest Loser began filming. He has lost 149 pounds -- more than any of his fellow losers.

He said he is excited for next week's marathon run and is confident he will make the final three.

"Mostly, I feel like I'm in a surreal place right now," he said. "In some ways I'll always be that scrappy kid from Kennewick, but I've also come a long way from the couch potato I used to be."

He is also counting the days when he will reunite with his family.

"I'm so looking forward to having a homecoming with my wife (Jill), seeing my kids (two sons) and sleeping in my own bed," John said.

"I'm a very lucky guy who is married to the sweetest woman alive. I'll also be coming home to Kennewick for New Year's Eve, and I'm really looking forward to that."