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Richfield woman competes in ‘Tough as Nails’ finale

Lia Mort one of four left in contention for grand prize

Photo courtesy of CBS
Lia Mort, right, works a line when crew members visit the U.S. Coast Guard where it’s time to sink or swim in a search and rescue individual challenge in a screen grab from the CBS television series ‘Tough As Nails.’ Pictured (L-R): Lia Mort competes in overtime. Photo: Best Possible Screengrab/CBS ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

RICHFIELD — A Juniata County handywoman, Lia Mort, will appear on the CBS reality show “Tough as Nails” season finale, which airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday, after a summer of taping the all-American show.

Mort, a Richfield resident and military veteran, prides herself on doing various trade skill jobs for others in her community.

This trait landed her a spot in a show with other like-minded blue-collar Americans who bonded with and competed against Mort over the summer as they filmed the latest season of the Phil Keoghan-hosted show.

Mort explained that the show did not “bring anybody down” like other reality shows often do. She and other contestants communicated well while completing challenges like breaking concrete, moving trucks of office furniture to the fourth floor of a building and changing tires, and refueling NASCAR cars during pit stops.

“Tough as Nails,” episodes feature 12 contestants who demonstrate strength, endurance and more in 6-on-6 team challenges, individual competitions and elimination battles.

“Dirty Hands,” which was Mort’s team, and “Savage Crew” competed in several team challenges throughout the season.

Also, contestants who lose elimination challenges and “punch out” of the individual competition do not leave the game and continue to receive opportunities to win additional prizes throughout the show as part of the team game.

Team members can win $12,000 ($2,000 per member) and a “badge of honor” during competitions. The team with the most badges receives an additional $60,000 ($10,000 per member) at the season’s close.

However, those eliminated in individual competitions exit the running for the grand prize of $200,000 and a Ford Super Duty pickup truck.

Mort is one of the final four contestants competing to win, having survived an “overtime” elimination challenge on the most-recently-aired episode in which she had to assemble a wooden rocking chair faster than her opponent, including making her own dowels, to claim the final spot in the final four.

She and others contend until three contestants stay for the final round of the competition.

The nerve-wracking nature of competition on the show differed from what Mort expected. She said that viewers did not get to see the little details that make or break a contestant’s ability to complete a job correctly due to the editing process needed to whittle down each episode to the alotted time.

Mort added that it is easy to sit on the couch and say a contestant missed the mark, but more goes into the tasks than viewers think.

She also said that camera crews did not hinder the competitions and that camera operators were barely noticeable when contestants set their sights on completing challenges.

The cast’s dynamic was friendly and uplifting, Mort said.. She intends to meet with her past competitors to get together following the show’s finale.

Mort added that if CBS approves her ideas, she intends to host a podcast alongside a friend she made on the show.

This podcast would feature past “Tough as Nails” contestants and friendly banter about the show, competitions and life after the show.

She also hopes to create a space to complete challenges similar to those on the show with CBS’s blessing. Mort wants to share the joy of rewarding feelings after completing a challenge with other Juniata County residents who have not had a chance to land a spot on the show.

She added that only 12 people compete every season, and it would be fun to provide such an experience to her community. This space would exist on her farm.

Mort hopes to see more uplifting shows like “Tough as Nails” and to spread that same energy to as many people as she can.

To see Mort and the other remaining competitors battle it out in the season finale, tune in to CBS at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

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