'Survivor' Season 35 Player Profile: Meet Katrina Radke

"You can't put Katrina in a box," the Olympian tells THR about why she's competing on the new season of 'Survivor.'
Courtesy of CBS

Welcome to the Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers preseason! THR's Josh Wigler reports from his exclusive visit to the show's shooting location in Fiji, where he interviewed host Jeff Probst, as well as the 18 new castaways battling it out for the million-dollar prize.

Click here to make sure you're all caught up on our stories from the island, including our weekly podcast series "First One Out," an in-depth look at all of the new players, culminating in an interview with the first person voted out this season.

The final Hero on the field: Katrina Radke, an Olympian and sports psychology professor. Katrina competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as a swimmer, an experience she actually predicted long before it ever happened.

"I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. I have two older brothers, both of whom were swimming. I wanted to go to the pool because they were going to the pool. That's how I got into the water," she says. "I loved it. I did all of our sports when I was little, but I knew I really wanted to swim. When I was in third grade, I knew I wanted to make the Olympics. In fact, I had a school assignment that said, 'When I'm 25...' and we had to complete the sentence. And I wrote: 'When I'm 25, I'll have gone to the Olympics, won many medals in swimming, then I'll get a boyfriend, coach for a couple of years, and get married!' I didn't know, but that's kind of funny, right? I found this when I was 27 and thought it was so hilarious, because I was 17 when I made the Olympic team."

Of course, dreams aside, Katrina is much more than an Olympian, as she will happily tell you.

"Here's the deal: you can't put Katrina in a box," she explains. "The Olympics is one piece of me. It's been almost 30 years since I swam in the Olympics. I'm 46. I was 17 when I swam. It's a big piece of my life, yes, and I'm still very connected to many Olympians and I meet many more as time goes on, but you can't just say because that person is an Olympian and because I'm an Olympian, we'll have similar experiences."

Consider Survivor a different form of actualizing a dream, then. Katrina has been aiming to make it onto the reality competition since the very beginning, much like another member of the Heroes tribe, Chrissy Hofbeck.

"I've been wanting to be on this show for so long," she says. "I applied with the second show that came out. I applied a couple of times early on, and since then, I've been married and had two kids. We watch the show together. I applied about a year ago, and I'm thrilled to be here!" 

Thrilled as she is, Katrina knows the road ahead is going to be a difficult one, especially given that she's not exactly comfortable with the deception involved in succeeding on Survivor: "It's going to be interesting. I'm more of a truth person. I tend to be blunt. I tend to say it like it is, and then it's done. I'm going to need to keep my mouth shut, is probably what's going to have to happen."

Is she going to keep her mouth shut when it comes to her past as an Olympian? That's a good question, and Katrina doesn't have a firm answer when we speak two days before the game begins: "A few days ago, I wasn't thinking so, but now I think I might. I'm old enough that I don't think it's going to matter to them so much. Except I think the perceptions that go along with it might be negative for me."

Listen to the podcast below to hear from Katrina and the rest of the Heroes Tribe in the second episode of our preseason series, "First One Out."

For what it's worth, Katrina feels her experience at the Olympics can translate to Survivor, at least as far as it concerns getting along with and getting to know people from different walks of life, people who speak figurative and literal different languages.

"The thing I loved the most about the Olympics... we were waiting before the opening ceremonies began," she remembers. "My event was day six or something, so I went to the opening ceremonies, but some people don't go. I went around with a friend of mine and took photos of everybody from different countries and different sports. There's people you can't speak the same language with, but you're communicating non-verbally, and you're trading items and swapping T-shirts. That's what the world is supposed to be about: connection. Athletes in the village, we'll all sit down in the cafeteria together that way. Everybody is thrilled to meet each other. The politics of the world don't exist there. Or they do, but they don't. You're in a place where I really appreciated that everyone there had their own story about the journey they took to be there. I don't care what anybody says, but to get to that level, you had to have a dream, you had to have a moment of doubt, and you still went for it anyway."

Katrina feels she can apply that same shared spirit of competition as she tries to connect with the 17 other Heroes, Healers and Hustlers, a group she's impressed with just based on first impressions alone. She also hopes that Survivor will provide her with some healing energy for some injuries and conditions she's incurred along the way, including chronic fatigue syndrome and effects from a car accident a few years ago.

"I'm imagining when I'm out here, I'm going to be completely healed," she says. "I have a few goals. Number one, I'm going to win. Number two, I want to connect with all the people out here, because we're going to be a family in the end; we're relying on each other, even though we're competing against each other. It's just like anything. You compete on an Olympic team or a national team, some people won't want to talk to you, and some people will be your best buddy even though you're competing against them. It's just how it is. Number three, I would love to see if I could go back and the doctor says, 'It's like beaming light!' I'm going to beam my light through my body the best I can while I'm out here."

Watch the video below for more from Katrina on why she's going to win Survivor.

That's Katrina in her own words. But what does everyone else think? Over the course of these interviews, I showed the castaways pictures of each other from casting, to get their pregame impressions of their future competitors. Read on for their takes on Katrina.

Note: comments from the castaways have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Alan Ball (NFL Player, Heroes Tribe): She's a wildcard. Oh, she's a wildcard. She is a wildcard. She is different in every sense of the word. You can tell she's older than me. She's a wildcard. She doesn't have that mom look to her. She looks more like after she leaves here she's going on a backpack trip through I don't know where, but she has that adventurous look about her. Yeah, she's a wildcard to me. I think she's going to be a spark. She's going to be a spark.

Cole Medders (Wilderness Therapy Guide, Healers Tribe): She's really friendly, and so far, a fun person to be around. She actually made a gesture at me. She thinks she has me pegged. She's like, "Rock climber?"

Mike Zahalsky (Urologist, Healers Tribe): I think she's like a hippie, a free spirit. But she's going to have a vicious personality, I think.

Roark Luskin (Social Worker, Healers Tribe): She seems like a hippy, dippy mama. She was wearing a tie-dyed dress yesterday that spoke volumes. Very loud clothing. She seems super energetic and upbeat. High energy. But then also, meditative. I definitely think she is spiritual. She would be a No Collar.

Devon Pinto (Surf Instructor, Hustlers Tribe): She seems chill, seems like a free spirited woman. She probably does yoga.

Ben Driebergen (Marine, Heroes Tribe): She's the therapist or yoga instructor. She's got rocks and stuff on her hands, or beads, or whatever the hell they wear. And she really observes people, you know what I mean? She was doing yoga out on the beach. So, I know she's into that spiritual kind of stuff. I don't know. I need to talk to her. People that are into that kind of stuff are really in depth and aware of their surroundings and what's going on. Or at least they think they are.

Ashley Nolan (Lifeguard, Heroes Tribe): She's got the bright colors going on. She's got this crazy smile all the time. I don't know what she does. She reminds me of an aerobics instructor or something like that. ... Behind that smile and crazy eyes, there might be some tactics that I might want to know about, you know? She might be a good one to actually keep on my team. 

Desiree Williams (Physical Therapist, Healers Tribe): I like her. She's got some crazy eyes, and she likes to be in people's space. So, I don't know if that's her need for companionship, or she's a touchy-feely type of person. I gotta kind of feel her out. I have a feeling she might be a little erratic. She's got these erratic movements that I don't know if I can trust.

Ali Elliott (Celebrity Assistant, Hustlers Tribe): She seems kind of quirky. Just from a distance, I've seen her do things, or heard her say expressions ... and I don't really understand what she's talking about. I don't know if we would get along as well.

Jessica Johnston (Nurse Practitioner, Healers Tribe): She seems kind of quirky, but in a good way. I don't want to bash her at all. She seems like she would be a dominant character. Just from the way she walks and I've seen her interact with some of the other people in Ponderosa. She seems very dominant, which is not a bad thing in the game. It just needs to work in my benefit because I'm pretty dominant too. I don't know. We'll see if we butt heads. We'll see.

Watch the video below for an early look at what Katrina's victory speech might look like.

Simone Nguyen (Diversity Advocate, Hustlers Tribe): She's definitely a cancer survivor.

Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): Interesting. Why do you think that?

Simone Nguyen (Diversity Advocate, Hustlers Tribe): She looks scared all the time. She's trying to prove something to herself, and her narrative is probably something like, "If I can beat cancer, I can beat anything." I definitely think that it's... you see a lot of cancer survivors and a lot of people with medical conditions on the show. Honestly, what they go through is so much worse than what we go through here. In this case, I think that maybe suffering like this might not have been the best choice for her.

JP Hilsabeck (Firefighter, Heroes Tribe): Another older girl. She has her haircut. She looks like she has herself together, by the way she carries herself, and things like that. Maybe she's someone to watch out for, always playing the game, and things like that. Hopefully she doesn't play the game too hard.

Chrissy Hofbeck (Actuary, Heroes Tribe): I know we all want to be individuals and I praise her for coming out with her individuality. But individuality in a game of Survivor, they don't necessarily go together. You gotta play the game. 

Ryan Ulrich (Bellhop, Hustlers Tribe): She's really excited to be here. You can tell. It's palpable. She's really pumped. But I hope she can find an avenue, because I would like to work with her, but if it's her or me, you know I'm sending her packing. 

Joe Mena (Probation Officer, Healers Tribe): Oh my God. I call her the Joker. Look at the smile!

Lauren Rimmer (Fisherman, Hustlers Tribe): She seems to be very nice. She's always got a smile on her face. I think she's going to be a hard worker. And, you know, again, that makes a big difference around camp. If your camp is organized and kind of got a good little flow, then it makes ... it brings the whole tribe together, and if you have positive people, like her, then you're a stronger team. I think that she would be a very positive person to be around.

Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): She seems maybe like a ball of energy. I don't know. She's got a big smile. Obviously, until you can speak with someone, you don't know exactly what they're gonna be like. I always love getting to know some different perspectives of people's lives so having someone older in our tribe that would be able to kind of be like the mother? That'd be good. That'd be a good figure. 

Katrina Radke (Olympian, Heroes Tribe): I feel really good about this cast. I think the cast is awesome, and here's why. You know how sometimes when you watch the Survivor show, there are a few people you can look at and go, "Oh my god, they might be depressed! They might be a gremlin, hiding in your closet!" This cast is very clean. I'm curious to find out how many are athletes. I know one guy is a rock climber. I can just tell by his nails and his hands and his back. I can tell a few of the females are definitely athletes. But when we're stripped down to not having any of this other food out there, it's going to be intense for everybody. I know people are going to have their moments. But as a group, people have a vision of, "Hey, let's go out there and be gamers together." I'm really excited about that.

Click through the gallery below for photos of Katrina and the rest of the Season 35 castaways.

Keep checking THR.com/Survivor for more coverage of the Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers preseason.

 

comments powered by Disqus