Land surveyor and musician Danny Cahill, 40, of Broken Arrow, Okla., became the biggest Biggest Loser of all time when he dropped 239 lbs., going from 430 to 191, to best his rival and show roommate Rudy Pauls, 31, in the season 8 finale Tuesday night.
Standing on the scale for one last time “was nerve-wracking,” Cahill confessed to PEOPLE moments after the confetti had fallen. “I kept looking down and seeing Rudy and how good he looks and thinking, ‘Oh, he can beat me!’ I walked away from the marathon ahead, but I know Rudy and he is a hard worker and he is a great man and there is nobody I could have competed with better than Rudy.”
Both Pauls and Cahill lost more than half their body weight and lost more pounds than previous record holder Erik Chopin, the winner of the third season.
Cahill won the Biggest Loser title and a $250,000 prize in an emotional finale. “Somebody in the audience was holding up a picture of my grandmother, who I was so close to, who died about 10 years ago,” he said, “and every time I would go on a run, I would say, ‘This is for you, Ada,’ and I know she is up there watching me.”
Among Cahill’s friends and family in the audience were his wife, Darci, 39, his son David, 10, and his daughter Mary Claire, 8. When Cahill got on the scale, “I was taking it all in and I couldn’t focus on where my family was,” he said. “When I finally saw them, I mouthed, ‘I love you’ to them and my daughter mouthed it back and I wanted to cry. I wanted to run off the scale and hug them! My family means the world to me and they are the reason I started this journey. They’re the reason I filled out the application for season 6 and 7 and 8.”
Sure enough, Cahill’s wife Darci told PEOPLE, “I knew he had it in him. He’s every bit of the man have seen on the show. He has been so diligent at home and the hard work has paid off.”
In fact, the whole family’s hard work is evident -- Darci has lost 60 lbs. herself, and daughter Mary Claire has lost 10 lbs. “We have done it with mega support from our friends, family and community,” Darci said.
Married for 14 years, Danny and Darci say their relationship has only grown through the experience. “When somebody gets to be that obese,” Darci said, “he turned into somebody I didn’t know, so part of this journey is getting to know each other again. It’s awesome. It’s like a new beginning.” Danny confirmed the couple will renew their wedding vows next September.
And what about the $250,000? Cahill said the family, who paid off a lot of credit card debt seven months ago, wouldn’t rush into any purchases. “Not only did I not balance my calories, I did not balance my budget,” he said, “and the first thing I told my wife was we are not spending a cent of that money until we have accounted for where it’s going to go. We have our children’s education, both of our cars are over 200,000 miles, there are some specific needs around the house -- we need new carpet -- but we are going to try to spend wisely and we will definitely give some away because The Biggest Loser is about paying it forward.” -- Cynthia WangRichie Buxo/Splash News Online