12/15/2009 at 12:00 AM EST
Last Tuesday, Danny Cahill
became the biggest Biggest Loser
ever when he dropped 239 lbs. in 7 months to win the eighth season title. Now, as NBC goes back to a couples edition of the series, the contestants and the challenges they face get bigger as well.
On Jan. 5, The Biggest Loser: Couples
premieres with 11 teams of two competing for the Season 9 crown. Among the players are Michael Ventrella
, a 30-year-old deejay from Chicago, who at 526 lbs. becomes the heaviest contestant ever on the series, and his is mother, Maria
, a 51-year-old corporate travel agent.
“I would do anything for Michael,” his mom Maria, who starts at 281 lbs., tells PEOPLE. “At first I didn’t think I could do it because I have too many responsibilities at home. I have a husband who is disabled, my mom in a wheelchair, a full-time job, home cleaning -- it’s a lot. But then he needed it so bad and so I am here, and I need it for myself, too!”
The Ventrellas are one of eight parent-child duos on the show this season.
Attorney Melissa Morgan
, 39, and her husband Lance
, 38, a rancher, hail from Aspermont, Texas, and are both interested in losing weight and saving their marriage.
California-based cousins Sam Poueu
, 24, and Koli Palu
, 29, were inspired by the success of Tongan cousins Sione and Filipe
in Season 7 and hope to do the same for the and culture of American Samoa.
Orlando, Fla., identical twins James
and John Crutchfield
, 30, weighed in at a combined 969 lbs. “I’m glad I’m here,” says James, “because my only other alternative is surgery.”
Here are the other teams vying for a $250,000 winner prize or $100,000 at-home prize:
Mom Patti Anderson
, 55, a business owner, and daughter Stephanie Anderson
, 29, a radio sales executive, from Lafayette and West Hollywood, Calif.
Mom Cherita Andrews
a 50-year-old homemaker and daughter Vicky Andrews
, a 22-year-old student from Houston, Texas.
Mom Miggy Cancel
, 48, a Pemberton, N.J. chef and daughter Migdalia Sebren
, 28, a homemaker from Sanford, N.C.
Mom Cheryl George
a 50-year-old store-owner and son, Daris George
, 25, a salesman, from Ardmore, Okla.
Father O'Neal Hampton, Jr
., a U.S. Postal Service station manager, 51, and daughter SunShine Hampton
, 24, a restaurant server, from Minneapolis, Minn.
Father Darrell Hough
, a press operator and mechanic, 46, and daughter Andrea Hough
, a 24-year-old executive assistant from Ann Arbor, Mich.
Mom Sherry Johnston
, a 51-year-old non-profit administrator and daughter Ashley Johnston
, a 27-year-old manager and esthetician from Knoxville, Tenn.
Also, season 7’s Tara Costa
will return to PEOPLE.com to blog for season 9! … - Cynthia Wang
Tell us: Are you excited for the new contestants?