Even Olympic gold medalists can lose their lunch during ‘The Amazing Race Canada’

Dave Bartlett
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I’m always excited for a new season of “The Amazing Race,” and for the second summer in a row I’ve been able to tide myself over with “The Amazing Race Canada” on CTV — which aired its second episode last night (9:30 Island time, thus after my deadline) with a rerun on TSN tonight (1:30 Thursday morning to be exact).

“The Amazing Race Canada” host Jon Montgomery at Harbourside Park in St. John’s during last summer’s race. The second cross-Canada contest began last week on CTV.

The second season premièred last week, and I must say it started with a high-paced episode with no less than four intense challenges — in be­tween all the obnoxious product placement.

Among the 11 teams competing this year, one is from Atlantic Canada — Jen and Shawn from Halifax — who came second last in the first leg. Like so many racers before, I hope coming this close to elimination motivates them into the next leg and beyond. Of course, I’ve got to cheer for this couple for geography’s sake.

The only team to finish behind them was friends Shahla and Nabeela, who failed to complete the last challenge and were eliminated. More on that in a moment.

I like many of the teams in this year’s race and there are only a few that got under my skin during the first leg, and then only for brief moments.

Beyond the Maritimers, I have to say I really like the twin brothers Pierre and Michel from Quebec, who both work as butchers in the family business, and compete, or have competed, in freestyle skiing.

One of my favourite moments during Leg 1 was when Shahla and Nabeela introduce themselves to the twins by noting neither was married, to which one of the brothers simply replies with a French accent, “We kill animals.” The scene then shifts to the brothers alone, who note they are here to race, not to flirt.

Like last year, and its American cousin, the show has opened itself up to celebrity contestants, for better or worse. This year, two members of Canada’s gold-medal winning Olympic Women’s Hockey Team, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson, are running the race and finished the first leg in front of the pack, winning the express passes. But even this team struggled during the second challenge.

After leaving the starting line at Jasper, Alta., the teams headed to Calgary’s Olympic Park, where each member of the teams zoomed down Canada’s fastest zipline, which reaches 140 km/h.

I haven’t done the run at Petty Harbour yet, but plan to check it out soon, as this is one of those activities I think I would enjoy. While there was some screaming, and I’m sure lots of anxiety, the racers got through it and then headed for the airport to catch flights to Victoria.

Once there, one member of each team had to do a tandem skydive, landing on a local beach. When Olympian Spooner was in the plane, but before she could jump, her nerves got the best of her and she began to vomit. She puked again after landing on the beach.

She may be amazing on skates, but it’s nice to know even Olympians can be challenged by the show’s obstacles and challenges. And hey, maybe beating a professional athlete or minor celebrity makes winning sweeter for the common folk.

After the skydiving, the teams had a major change of pace, but many teams found challenge No. 3 the most difficult. Even though it was likely the least physically demanding — or at least exhilarating — one member of the team had to serve afternoon tea at a posh Victoria hotel that had been holding the daily event for more than 100 years.

Not only did they have to serve the tea properly, with all the rituals observed, they had to recite the complex menu word for word.

While this challenge put some space between the teams, the final challenge of the episode was probably one of the hardest I’ve seen in the Canadian version of the race thus far.

Teams had to travel to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, headquarters of the Pacific naval fleet, where they had to take part in a rescue simulation. Each team had to wear survival suits and plug nine leaks in a mock ship’s hull while it filled with icy seawater. Some of the leaks were as easy as closing hatches, but others involved some strange-looking suction-like doohickeys.

While already behind, Shahla and Nabeela dropped one of the pieces into the water — not once, but twice. After bobbing for the hand-sized piece in the water over her head twice, one of the girls was too cold to go on. In the end, her legs gave out while climbing the ladder out of the simulator and she had to be carried out by a naval crew and treated, I assume, for hypothermia.

A pretty exciting beginning, with a summer full of racing ahead.

Dave Bartlett muses about watching habits, TV shows — new and old — and anything related to whatever he may be watching at the moment. You can get in touch with him at talkingtelevsion@gmail.com.

Organizations: Victoria hotel

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Jasper Calgary Olympic Park Petty Harbour Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt Pacific

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  • Joanne Verwey
    July 15, 2014 - 23:18

    Thank you, Dave Bartlett, for your inspiring article on Amazing Race Canada's first episode last week. I am pulling for Jen and Shawn King and Shawn's complete recovery after his unfortunate mishap in Tofino this week. Shawn's positive comment "to be eliminated means we had to qualify initially" (excuse my poor paraphrasing) had me raising my hand with a resounding Yes! in acknowledging Shawn's tremendous sportsmanship. That he and Jen will carry on to be a forever inspiration for their son is an understatement.