Entertainment Television

The Amazing Race Canada: Behind the scenes as the racers recover in Bangkok

By Jim Slotek, Special to Postmedia Network

(CTV Handout)

(CTV Handout)

BANGKOK, Thailand – Do the racers get breaks on The Amazing Race Canada? Yes, but it can be a long time coming.

At the end of the non-elimination fifth leg of the season (which aired last week), the remaining seven TARC teams finally got an off-day in Thailand’s capital. No one claimed to have had more than four hours’ sleep in their journey from B.C. to Beijing to Shanghai (where they stopped for travel instructions at a Montreal-themed deli) and then Bangkok.

But whereas the crew took full advantage of this city-that-never-sleeps (what happens in Bangkok, etc.), the contestants got 12 full hours of snooze-time in a luxury hotel near glittering Siam Square, and nursed injuries.

Both Andrea Croxen (partnered with her pal Ebonie Roberge) and Ivana Krunic (Korey Sam’s partner) had suffered back injuries in Beijing while attempting a synchronized-diving challenge from the five-metre board at the National Olympic Sports Centre.

Others, including Roberge and Sam Lambert (partnered with his significant-other Paul Mitskopoulos) acquired bruises in the same event.

Croxen, a yoga instructor, and Krunic, a physical trainer, both were keenly aware of the nature of their injuries.

“My back completely hyperextended as soon as I hit the water,” Krunic recalls. “It folded the opposite way. As soon as I hit the water I felt it. It felt like it snapped.

“But because the adrenaline was so high my pain was numbed. The second dive, I honestly felt paralyzed. As trainers, we know good pain and bad pain. I had my eyes filling up with tears. I was so nervous I couldn’t even continue.

“Now I can’t sleep. I can’t bend or turn backwards.”

Croxen’s lumbar strain, “I had before the race, and I had it fixed. I was in physiotherapy up to the race. And I thought it was fixed, but when we did the diving challenge, it kicked back in. It was like having electric shocks right in to my spine.”

As for Roberge, whose belly flops were epic, “All I have is a bruise here and there, but I’m fine. I mean I know I’m going to be laughing my head off when I see the footage of me trying to dive.”

Both teams switched Detours to the less impactful Chinese line dancing challenge. (Conversely, in a game that has favoured the younger and stronger players, fiftysomething cancer-survivor dad Shabbir Dhalla and his son Zed aced the dive).

Happily for the recovering racers, the Bangkok leg of the race (which airs Tuesday) would offer mental challenges for those who weren’t up for the physical. Racers performed the puppet show of the Monkey God in an Artists House on the Yodpiman River Walk.

Later, one of the Detour options would be decorating a Tuk Tuk to exact specifications at the Amulet Market at the Buddhist Khlong Thom Center.

On the physical side, there was the Fast Forward opportunity to play the national sport Takraw at the Bangkok National Stadium. Kind of a combination of soccer and basketball, Takraw involves kicking a wicker ball into an elevated hoop for points.

And then there was “Shred It,” the Surfing Detour. It isn’t exactly a spoiler to reveal that surfer dudes Kenneth McAlpine and Ryan LaChapelle – a.k.a. “Team Give’r” – opted for the surf machine/wakeboard challenge that is the main attraction at the Bangkok urban beach club Flow. The machine, which effectively churns waves uphill, still took getting used to.

Team Give’r was conscious of the possibility of an “expert fail” – as when National Team player Natalie Spooner couldn’t hit the net in a hockey challenge, and when pro soccer player Nic La Monaca flubbed “blind soccer.”

“We had fun with it,” LaChapelle said. “But when you go into something with an idea and feel confident with that idea, and it turns out to be something else, you have to adjust.”

And as always, the end result could very easily be decided by a cab disaster.

Krunic and Sam had been briefly stranded on the road halfway between Beijing and the Great Wall of China when they bolted their cab (illegally). “The guy was going 20 km an hour on a highway,” Krunic said. “We paid him more than we should have just to get out. We felt kidnapped. I would have rolled out of a moving vehicle at that point.”

And on race day in Bangkok, they would endure yet another language-barrier disaster with a cabbie.

“It’s unbelievable, it has to be bad luck,” Sam said. “We go out of our way to make sure the people understand the directions. It’s clearly written out. In Beijing, we had the directions in Chinese. Once, okay. Twice, maybe. But every single time?

Since we got to Asia, out of 10 cabs, maybe eight of them took us the wrong way.”

At the halfway point of the race, the Amazing Racers admitted there was plenty they hadn’t expected, even after watching the show for years. Edmonton’s Karen Richards, who’d performed strongly with her husband Bert, said she knew she’d miss her four-year-old daughter, but didn’t anticipate how much.

“It doesn’t translate super-well to television, but the past four days have been so exhausting,” Lambert said. “Terrible beds and cheap hotels and four hours a night. But you’re not thinking about being tired in the moment. Everything is more extreme than I thought it would be.

“And the teams are stronger than I thought they’d be.”

“And the time we spend in cities is less than I thought,” Mitskopoulos added. “It’s ‘Hey, the Great Wall of China!’ We’re in and we’re out.”

The Give’r boys admitted they were tempted to get more acquainted with Bangkok. “We’ve backpacked Indonesia together,” McAlpine said. “We could see the backpackers in the bars here having a good time. We so wanted to go backpacking with them. But then we hit the bed and we were out.”

“This leg has been insane. There are so many elements,” Sam said. “The physical, the mental, the lack of sleep, the flying.”

“It really tests your limits,” his partner Kunic adds. “But it’s great to find out your limits are endless.”

The Amazing Race Canada airs Tuesdays on CTV.

jimslotek@bell.net