Former tennis pin-up Anna Kournikova will replace Jillian Michaels as one of the trainers on "The Biggest Loser," the NBC show’s executive producer told New York Magazine on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old Russian, better remembered for her stunning looks than her achievements on the court, will be the cornerstone of an overhaul of the program as it enters its 12th season.
"The Biggest Loser" executive producer Todd Lubin said the show would be "getting slightly away from just the tape measure, and getting into overall well-being and health. That’s where ‘Loser’ needs to go."
Lubin said hundreds of trainers were interviewed, but the producers did not want a like-for-like replacement for the tough Michaels, saying those who tried to replicate her aggressive style were rejected. Michaels was leaving the show to focus on starting a family, via adoption.
Kournikova made a guest appearance during the show’s 10th season, and Lubin said he was impressed by her ability to motivate the contestants.
Lubin said the former world No. 1 doubles player’s toughness should not be underestimated, though.
"She grew up with very little in Moscow, pounding tennis balls every day when she was five," he said.
"What’s alarming about Anna is that when she really gets intense, she starts speaking Russian. And as a child of the Cold War, it scares me when she does."
Sources also told the magazine that trainers Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronuova would not be returning after joining the show this season.