He is a school teacher who believes that “real strength is not how well you do, but how well you do when you get locked down”.

Meet Dinesh Jared Sundram, who was born with empyema (infection of lungs) and as a child, misdiagnosed with Reye’s syndrome (a disease that could lead to brain damage). Those were not factors that could stop Seremban-born Jared from thriving in physical challenges.

To date, the 28-year-old has won a few titles, including KIX HD’s R U Tough Enough? (RUTE) in 2014. (RUTE is a TV series which searches for individuals who are physically tough as well as mentally and emotionally strong.)

Last year, Jared was the winner of Cleo Most Eligible Bachelor; he was also second runner-up of Celebrity Fitness Fitathlon and top three finalist of Mr World Malaysia 2016, walking away with subsidiary title Mr Intellectual.

A graduate of AIMST University in Kedah in 2011 with a degree in biotechnology, Jared presently teaches science and biology in an international school.

Being a big fan of fitness and workouts, Jared has participated in Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts, described as the biggest amateur mixed martial arts championship in Asia.

When he was 19, Jared – who is 182cm tall – only weighed 57kg. Compared to other mixed martial arts fighters, he was then considered underweight and physically unfit.

That triggered Jared to start his journey in physical training, which began at his campus gymnasium. He decided that he no longer wanted to be underweight.

When the opportunity arose for him to participate in RUTE three years ago, he didn’t hesitate.

The youngest of three siblings, Jared gets full support from his family in everything he does.

“I’ve always wanted to make my parents proud. In a way, participating in RUTE is proof that I am indeed tough enough,” he mused.

Bagging the numerous titles also gave Jared a bigger driving factor – to influence others.

“Now, I am moving towards becoming a role model for my students. As a young teacher, they look up to me as a big brother figure,” shared Jared.

He keeps himself disciplined by competing on a yearly basis.

“When I train, I know the goal,” said Jared, who trains five times a week after work; on weekends, he coaches others.

According to Jared, he has gained invaluable experiences from entering competitions.

“The biggest takeaway for me is the courage to take the first step out of my comfort zone. Once you are out of your comfort zone, you know you have to work hard to make that ‘place’ comfortable for you.”

Joining RUTE has taught Jared what it means to stay focused and to believe in himself.

Therefore, he was more than prepared to return to the competition.

This year’s R U Tough Enough?: The Ultimate Edition brings back past champions from the last three years. Besides Jared, there are DG Leoniel (2015) and Benny Yeoh (2016).

Coming back to defend his title has seen Jared training hard. But prolonged hours of workout caused injury on his knees and he had to undergo a knee surgery recently. Because of this, he missed six months of training.

Nevertheless, his strong support system – which includes his family and 26-year-old fiancée, Katherine Lloyd – makes his journey easier.

“I have expectations from people around me and I struggle with the notion of letting people down. But I am going to do my best, and put in loads of trust and faith,” explained Jared.

If you’re a follower of Jared’s Instagram account (@dineshjared), you’d notice that he frequently uses the hashtag #underdog.

This is closely related to the doctor’s diagnosis when he was little. Based on the grim diagnosis, he was not supposed to realise what he has achieved today.

After all, no one thought he was going to win RUTE when he entered the competition, but he proved to be a dark horse and stole the show.

“Physically, I might have changed drastically but deep down, I’m still struggling with the psychological challenge,” he said.

“I genuinely feel that it gives me a sense of comfort, putting in my best but not expecting much. I don’t want to feel that I’ve disappointed myself or others, and it helps in reducing pressure,” he revealed.

As Jared reiterated, being tough means that you are able to get up when life hits you. One needs to keep pushing forward and fighting every day.

R U Tough Enough? is open to all Malaysians aged 18 and above. To enter the competition, participants must apply online at www.kix-tv.com/tough. Deadline is Oct 18.