Nashville songwriter Canaan Smith, 26, and his aspiring country singer sweetheart Mika Combs, 22, had no problem taking a figurative leap of faith by joining The Amazing Race only a few months into their relationship. Yet it was the literal plunge at Dubai’s Atlantis Resort that ended their reality-show run–but not their romance. –Carrie Bell
Considering your combined lack of travel experience, Mika’s laundry list of fears and the fact that you’ve been a couple for less than a year, you guys lasted longer than anyone expected.
Canaan: Even though Sunday night made it look like it, we are not quitters. We’re both dreamers. We pursue everything that we dream and we believe in it before it happens. We were the underdogs but we never gave up. Everybody loves an underdog.
Was it na ve to think you could handle whatever producers cooked up despite the aforementioned obstacles?
Canaan: We really thought we could handle anything. We went on the show to have a great time together and learn more about each other and win a million dollars. We had an agreement to go for it all out and do whatever it takes. We knew Mika would be terrified in that type of scenario and I told her from the beginning that I would push her if I had to. And I definitely tried to push her, but she had a death grip. Unfortunately, fear is so irrational and paralyzing that it won in this instance.
From the couch, it didn’t look that scary, certainly easier than bungee jumping. Can you explain what was going on in your head for the 25 minutes who were on the platform before the Globetrotters arrived.
Mika: Before the Race, I tried to learn to swim. If it had been something like swim across a pool, I could have managed, especially with the floaties. But the Leap of Faith combined my two worst fears of heights and water. The slide was six stories high and they told me I would go about 45 miles an hour and end in water. I was a train wreck.
Big Easy didn’t make it any easier by taunting Mika. Do you still think he’s “a piece of crap” for doing it?
Canaan: I understand they’re basketball players who trash talk daily and that it’s a competition. But if it had been Big Easy’s little girl sitting on that slide in a fit of hysterics, he would not be cool with me capitalizing on her fears and taunting her. He has since apologized and made it right. They are cool guys, but it was the wrong approach and unnecessary. Even if she’d done it, there was no time to wait and we wouldn’t beat them in a foot race.
Canaan, you eventually went down.
Canaan: I knew it was over for us once the Globetrotters went down and I was mad so I needed to get away. The slide was a piece of cake, but as I was going down, it took my stomach and breath away and I thought, “Oh gosh, Mika would have hated this.”
Do you regret not facing your fears?
Mika: Definitely. Even watching Sunday, I wished so bad that I was like the other in the Race. Some of the others were scared but they still went down. I was paralyzed. I can’t take it back so I’m not going to let it haunt me. We’ve moved on.
Was this the most trying moment of your relationship to date?
Canaan: In the moment, it was nearly impossible for me to handle. I was completely pissed. She was completely terrified. I thought if I could stay beside her and talk I might be able to coax her through it.
Mika: Knowing that if I didn’t go down the slide we would lose was probably the hardest moment in my whole life. I let my teammate, who I care about deeply, and myself down. I cost us a million dollars because I could not go down that stupid slide.
Did the relationship survive the test?
Canaan: We’re still together. We’re better for it. Forgiveness is supreme. It feels a lot better than resentment.
Mika: He was mad in the moment but he forgave me quickly and understood.
Did the experience make you want to take it to the next level? Perhaps get engaged like fellow Racers Garrett and Jess?
Canaan: Oh heavens to Betsy. We love each other and we’re happy with that for now.
Mika: And we’re best friends. We’re taking it day by day hanging out and having a good time.
Canaan: It has been really fun meeting fans of the show. We’re signing autographs left and right. It is a taste of what we believe is to come as far as our careers taking off. As a songwriter, being a guy who tears open a clue that leads you to an unknown destination every morning and being thrown into these bizarre situations provided tons of inspiration.
Mika: And it made us want to travel more. We want to go back and take time to experience those places. I was just stunned by all the lights and the tall buildings in Dubai. You just can’t believe your eyes that something like the Burj Dubai is real. We’d definitely go back when it was cooler.