Eleven teams will compete for the $1 million prize on the upcoming season of The Amazing Race, which premieres at 8 p.m. Feb. 17. They will travel more than 30,000 miles, visiting five continents and nine countries. Among their tasks will be skydiving from 10,000 feet in Bora Bora, participating in a Shemozzle race in New Zealand, hunting for scorpions with the Bushmen of Botswana and scaling the treacherous north face of the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland. This season of the competition also will feature a new twist wherein the first team to check in at the first pit-stop will earn two “Express Passes” -- one to keep for themselves and one that must be given to another team by the end of the fourth leg of the race.
The pro hockey player brothers, who live together in the off season, say they get along extremely well. Says Bates: "We're so close it's like we finish each other's --" "-- sandwiches," quips Anthony. The duo think they will have targets on their back right off the bat "because we're two of the bigger [competitors] on the show, so I think they may have an eye on us to begin with," Bates says. The duo also say their strategy is to play nice, at least in the beginning. "We don't want to make anybody mad -- not too early anyways -- and keep an alliance here and there," Anthony says, adding that their own worst enemy could be themselves if they start "thinking the other teams aren't as good us and taking that for granted." Bates also points out that Anthony's resemblance to Prince William could help them should the Race take them to England. "We'll get in Buckingham Palace, no problem," he jokes.
Caroline Cutbirth, Jennifer Kuhle
The duo -- songwriter Kuhle and singer-songwriter Cutbirth, both members of the band Stealing Angels -- have famous ancestors: Cutbirth is a direct descendant of Daniel Boone, while Kuhle is the granddaughter of John Wayne. But, says Cutbirth, she didn't inherit any pioneering skills as a result. The pair, who have known each other for seven years, say a lot of time of spent on tour buses has prepared them for the Race. "We're used to getting no sleep and traveling at any hour," Kuhle says. They think their fellow teams will underestimate them based on appearances -- "They don't know that we're not sissies," Cutbirth says -- and add that, no matter what happens, they won't give up on the Race. "We're not quitters," Cutbirth says. "We'll finish everything we start, even if it kills us. But that's going to be terrible if we die on the Race." Quips Kuhle: "No it won't because we've had a great life."
Chuck and Wynona McCall
The husband-and-wife team -- he is a retail manager and taxidermist and she works as a cosmetologist/hairstylist -- say that, in addition to the shot at a $1 million prize, they wanted to take part in the Race because they haven't really had the opportunity to travel the world. They hope that their fellow competitors underestimate them since they are the oldest team competing (she's 49; he's 46). "But we're in great shape; we can keep up with all these young punks," Chuck quips. "And we're from Alabama, so hopefully they'll think we're dumb rednecks." The duo, who jokingly refer to themselves as "Popeye and Olive Oyl," have been together 24 years and married for 16. Chuck says their weaknesses might be "my bossiness and her snappiness," but the pair say they have strong communication skills. "We start sentences that we don't even have to finish," Wynona says.
David and Connor O'Leary
Connor, a professional cyclist, says he had wanted to try out for the show since he was "a little kid" and thought his father, David, who works in investment properties, would made the perfect teammate. "I thought, 'What a great opportunity to do something like this, go on an incredible journey with my son, and I didn't think there was a prayer we'd get in, so it was pretty easy to apply," David jokes. He adds that his main goal -- on the advice is his wife -- is to "not embarrass the family." Connor, meanwhile, says the Salt Lake City-based pair have traveled around the world together and that their past as cancer survivors -- both are in remission -- has prepared them mentally for the Race, while they are also in strong physical shape thanks in part to their love of bike riding. If they have a weakness, Connor says, it's that "we both think we're right. That could be the Achilles' heel for us."
Idries and Jamil Abdur-Rahman
The twin brothers, 35, work together as OB/GYN physicians in the same practice. "We tend to know each other strengths and weaknesses, and we work well together in everyday life," Jamil says. Idries adds: "We are used to working and functioning on little sleep, little to no food, we're used to working together and reaching a common goal. We've pretty much been a team from day one, not one put together [for the Race]." Part of the duo's strategy is to keep their profession hidden -- "because they will make assumptions about us," Jamil says --- although they still haven't agreed on what to tell people they do for a living. As for their weaknesses? "We are both so headstrong, but when we argue it's normally about important things," Jamil says. Idries adds that any challenges that involves water or heights is a source of concern -- "and just the unknown."
John Erck, Jessica Hoel
The couple, who recently moved to Southern California from Minnesota, have already had a lot of life-changing adventures -- including traveling to multiple countries, scuba diving, rock climbing, white-water rafting, skydiving and climbing California's Half Dome -- that they say will prepare them for the Race. In addition, Jessica has run nine marathons and is bilingual. "We do a lot of crazy adventures and crazy vacations, and everyone kept telling us we should try out," says Jessica, who works in sales. John, a computer programmer, adds that their biggest fear is being eliminated by something out of their control, for example, a cab driver who takes them to the wrong location or losing their passports. And, jokes John -- whom Jessica calls "hangry," for a combination of "hungry" and "angry," when he needs food: "If they starve us, it's going to be a real challenge."
Joey Graceffa, Meghan Camarena
The friends and YouTube hosts say they are pretty sure the other teams will underestimate them. "They'll think we're super smiley and super cute, but we're real competitors," Camarena says. "I think they'll be surprised at how quickly we get things done and want to be partners with us. I hope it doesn't put a target on our back." Camarena says she's up for any of the crazier, more adventurous challenges, while Graceffa will take on the eating challenges. "I can eat or drink anything really fast, but if it comes to raw sushi or fish, that's going to be a problem," he adds. As for their biggest weakness, the duo say neither one is very good at navigation. But they added that they plan to work hard for the $1 million prize. "We don't expect to win this race," Camarena says, "we expect to earn it."
Max and Katie Bichler
For these newlyweds of only four weeks, The Amazing Race is actually serving as their honeymoon. "We haven't been able to travel, so this is the real deal," Max says, joking: "We're expecting no stress and nothing but five-star hotels." The pair, who had been backups for three seasons before finally getting the call to compete, say that their newlywed status -- and the fact that their entire 3 1/2-year relationship was long-distance -- might put them at a disadvantage. But adds, Katie, a pharmacist, "I think because of our looks the other teams will underestimate us. They might think I'm a dumb blonde, but I have my doctorate, and I'm not going to release that information." The former NFL cheerleader says she's going to "play into that" in an effort to throw their rivals off. And Max adds that his job in cigar sales has taken him to many third-world countries, "so no huge surprises there."
Matthew Davis, Daniel Moss
The best friends and firefighters from South Carolina think they have an edge: The pair have known each other since they were 5 years old and even got hired at the fire station on the same day. "We make a good team; we've been through all kinds of stressful stuff at work together," says Matthew, who got Daniel hooked on show while watching it at the fire station. The two have had many adventures in the U.S., but not so much outside of the country, which could be a disadvantage. "I don't think anything worries us except that we'll be wanting to stop and look at stuff," Matthew says. Daniel adds that they are hoping their "Southern charm" helps take them far. "Everybody might think because we talk slow, we might run slow," he says. "But we're gonna be tough." Adds Matthew: "We're nice guys and we'll play nice, but at the end of the day, it's a game and we'll do whatever it takes to win."
Mona Egender, Beth Bandimere
The roller-derby moms -- each has three kids -- say their cover was blown before the Race even started, after the other teams saw their team logo on their outfits. "They just thought we were a girl team at first, but that changed their way of thinking," Bandimere says. "One of the guys literally said under his breath, 'Wow that changed the way we think about them.'" But she think the intimidation factor could work in their favor. Egender adds competing in a "rough, ultracompetitive" sport will give them a leg up. And their being moms also could be a strength -- and downfall. "You have to know how to do 5,000 things at once and they all had to be done yesterday," she says, then quipping: "But we also have small bladders because we've had three kids. When we have to go to the bathroom, there's no holding it in."
Pamela Chien, Winnie Sung
The best friends -- Chien is an art director and fitness instructor, while Sung is a senior project manager -- have already had lots of adventures, including skydiving, bungee jumping, going on a safari, trapezing and kayaking. "We don't really have a lot of fears," Sung says. "We're not scared of the water; we're not scared of heights; we're not scared of jumping off high things; we're not even scared of eating weird things." They think their smaller statures could be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on what the challenges, call for, but also in terms of the other teams underestimating them. "I already know everyone's pegged us as, 'Oh, don't worry about those girls; they're harmless and small,'" Chien says. "But I look forward to actually proving a lot of these teams wrong."
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