Oct. 15--Holley Mangold has always been the big girl.
She weighed 200 pounds by the fifth grade and nearly 300 before she started high school in Kettering, Ohio.
In 2011, MTV featured her as the subject of a True Life episode, "I'm the Big Girl."
But the 24-year-old Olympic weightlifter, now living in Dublin, wanted to ditch that title -- and The Biggest Loser called to help.
"It's hard to lose that identity, but I'm saying, 'I'm not going to be that anymore,'" Mangold said. "I wanted to trim off the fat and gain muscle."
With the 15th season of the NBC weight-loss competition premiering at 8 tonight, Mangold will be front and center as one of two celebrity contestants and the heaviest (at 351 pounds) of the eight women. (Seven men are on the show.)
With next year being an Olympic year, the show wanted to cast an Olympian, executive producer Lisa Hennessy said. (The live finale will air in February, the same month the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia.)
Mangold also embodied the season's theme: Second Chances.
She missed out on a medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, placing 10th in the super heavyweight division: "I know she has a dream to medal in 2016 in Rio," Hennessy said.
With a few weeks of filming remaining -- contestants arrived at the California-based Biggest Loser ranch in late June -- Mangold and producers wouldn't reveal how much weight she had lost or how long she lasts on the elimination-style show.
But Mangold did say that she achieved her two goals: to lose weight and inspire others.
"I was at the peak of my career and a great time in my life," Mangold said. "I wanted to show people you don't have to hit rock-bottom to make a change."
Mangold almost said no to The Biggest Loser when producers called in June. The show required her to withdraw from two major weightlifting competitions -- one in Venezuela and the other in Russia.
In the end, though, she decided that the opportunity mattered more than missing the competitions.
"I know I've been wanting to lose weight for weightlifting -- weightlifting is my passion and love," Mangold said.
Her weight had begun to negatively affect her performance.
"There's a common misconception that you should be as big as you can," Mangold said, "but really the sport is filled with teeny-tiny people."
She doesn't want to be "teeny-tiny," she said, just healthier and stronger.
Mangold made history in 2006 as a member of the Alter High School football team, becoming the first female offensive lineman to play in an Ohio Division III championship game.
She began playing football at a young age in the Dayton suburb, following in the footsteps of her older brother, Nick, a former Ohio State center who plays for the Green Bay Packers.
Although she struggled spending so much time away from her family and friends in Ohio, her relatives and friends who are fans of the show offered her pointers, she said.
Mangold had seen only a few episodes of The Biggest Loser back in 2011 when Rulon Gardner, an Olympic gold-medalist and wrestler, participated.
Hennessy said her spit-fire personality and playful banter with The Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper will appeal to viewers.
"She's doesn't have a filter, and she's funny," Hennessy said. "It's a beautiful thing when someone speaks her mind.
>> Holley discusses her role on the TV show in this preview video from NBC
>> See video of Holley preparing for 2012 Summer Olympics
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