The long race, amaz­ing fin­ish for Cal­gary con­tes­tants

On the trail of Amaz­ing Race Canada to its manic con­clu­sion in Banff

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ERIC VOLMERS

It’s late af­ter­noon on the pic­turesque fifth hole of the Fair­mont Banff Springs Golf Course and John Brun­ton is near giddy with ex­cite­ment.

The elab­o­rately mus­ta­chioed ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Amaz­ing Race Canada is driv­ing a golf cart to­wards the crew and most of the elim­i­nated com­peti­tors from the show’s sixth sea­son to the spot where the win­ning team will even­tu­ally be crowned this year’s champs. It’s not over yet, of course. But by this point, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly clear that Rock­yview Gen­eral Hospi­tal nurse Court­ney Ber­glind and Cal­gary fire­fighter Adam Ko­vacs will likely score a ma­jor upset and pass front-run­ners Tay­lor and Court­ney Cal­lens, the highly or­ga­nized, calm-un­der­pres­sure team of sib­ling Moun­ties from Bri­tish Columbia.

Brun­ton is a veteran when it comes to this sort of thing, hav­ing ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duced not only six sea­sons of Amaz­ing Race Canada but also re­al­ity com­pe­ti­tion pro­grams such as Canadian Idol and Top Chef Canada. Still, he seems le­git­i­mately jazzed about this sur­pris­ing turn of events. So ex­cited, in fact, that crew mem­bers re­port see­ing him nearly hit a tree while driv­ing the cart hap­haz­ardly to­wards the fin­ish line.

“What a great end­ing!” he yells, af­ter steer­ing the golf cart back on track. “We thought it was a fait ac­com­pli!”

By now, fans of Amaz­ing Race Canada know that en­gaged first re­spon­ders Ber­glind and Ko­vacs were the un­ex­pected win­ners of Sea­son 6.

In Tues­day ’s sea­son fi­nale, which took place mostly in Cal­gary and Banff, the pair sur­prised ev­ery­one by pulling ahead of the Cal­lens, who were stymied by a strangely in­tense sou­venir hunt along Banff Av­enue. The Cal­lens had won five legs of the ad­ven­ture se­ries this sea­son. When the episode be­gan, Ber­glind and Ko­vacs hadn’t won any. But they had man­aged to avoid elim­i­na­tion week af­ter week. By the fi­nal episode, they were the un­der­dogs in a three-way com­pe­ti­tion with the Cal­lens and mus­cle­bound Fort McMur­ray youth men­tors and coaches Dy­lan Elias and Kwame Osei.

On May 19, the teams com­plete this leg in Banff and I was in­vited along to wit­ness the fast-paced, be­hind-the-scenes ac­tion. The first hint that Ber­glind and Ko­vaks were near­ing the end was the he­li­copter whirling above the golf course. I join mem­bers of the crew who have re­treated to a wooded area on the course to keep out of sight of the cam­eras. Even­tu­ally, we see the tri­umphant end­ing. When they come into view, Ber­glind is be­ing car­ried piggy back­style by Ko­vacs. But they cross the fin­ish line to­gether and make their way to beam­ing host Jon Mont­gomery on the cham­pi­ons’ mat. Their for­mer com­peti­tors are all there cheer­ing them on.

Hours later, af­ter the teams and crew have eaten din­ner, recorded their fi­nal thoughts and have re­turned to the club­house for an in­ter­view with Postmedia, the sleep-de­prived champs still seem be­wil­dered by their win. But they are look­ing for­ward to hav­ing un­sus­pect­ing fam­ily and friends watch them in ac­tion.

“For the whole race, it’s been so up-and-down,” says Ber­glind, 28. “We kind of raced at the bot­tom of the pack for most of the race. I think ev­ery episode that we watch, maybe other than one or two, our fam­ily is go­ing to think we’re go­ing home.”

“I wouldn’t say it has sunk in yet,” adds Ko­vacs, 29. “It feels like my con­tacts are cloudy or some­thing. I just feel like I’m be­ing led around.”

By win­ning, Ber­glind and Ko­vacs take home not only $250,000, but also match­ing Chevro­let Traverse Red­lines and earn a trip around the world. Not a bad haul for a cou­ple set to be mar­ried in Novem­ber.

Tues­day ’s episode be­gan in Fred­er­ic­ton, where the Cal­lens were the first to fly out of the city to Cal­gary to their first road­block/chal­lenge. It took place in the Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s air traf­fic con­trol tower. One mem­ber of each team had to mem­o­rize an au­to­matic ter­mi­nal in­for­ma­tion sys­tem trans­mis­sion about me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions, a 30-sec­ond clip chock-full of tech­ni­cal terms. Court­ney Callen breezed through it with sur­pris­ing ease. But it proved dif­fi­cult for both Ber­glind and, in par­tic­u­lar, Osei.

“It was just a word I couldn’t pro­nounce prop­erly that I had never heard be­fore,” says a de­jected Osei, later that day in a post-race in­ter­view with Postmedia. “I think it’s go­ing to haunt me for a while. I feel like had I got­ten that we would be the win­ners right now. I feel like I let our team down. It’s some­thing that’s go­ing to take me a while to get over.”

From Cal­gary, the teams were flown by he­li­copter to the top of a moun­tain in Kananaskis, where they re­ceived march­ing or­ders di­rect­ing them to Sun­shine Vil­lage for a two-part ad­ven­ture in­volv­ing ski­jor­ing, which com­bines dogsled­ding and ski­ing, and glid­ing down the moun­tain on a GT Racer over a frigid pond of slush wa­ter.

This is where I was sup­posed to start the day. But in a clas­sic mo­ment of Amaz­ing Race mis­di­rec­tion, my driver and I ended up at the day’s pro­duc­tion head­quar­ters at Banff Cen­tre, where a group of per­plexed pro­duc­ers in­formed us we were in the wrong place. We fol­lowed the front-run­ner Cal­lens up the gon­dola and ar­rived just in time to see Tay­lor sail­ing over the slush pond with a spec­tac­u­lar som­er­sault and face­plant that left him with a nasty, red­dish bruise on his face.

“How’d that look?” Tay­lor asks later that day, when dis­cov­er­ing I had wit­nessed his epic spill. “I’ve got makeup on to cover that.”

I wouldn’t say it has sunk in yet. It feels like my con­tacts are cloudy or some­thing. I just feel like I’m be­ing led around.

ROBERT­SON CRAIG

Amaz­ing Race Sea­son 6 win­ners Court­ney Ber­glind and Adam Ko­vacs dis­cuss their big win on Wed­nes­day.

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