Hiking the wrong way up a mountain in Dracula territory, sprinting half-naked in Siberia, almost drowning in China, eating starfish and gallivanting around Hawaii without any pants on was all worth it when the Jih siblings crossed the finish line first on The Amazing Race 14. The day after their big win aired, lawyers Victor, 36 from Los Angeles, and Tammy, 27 from San Francisco, talked to PEOPLE about avoiding parental shame, their most difficult legs of the Race moments and how they intend to spend the million bucks. — Carrie Bell
You talked often about disappointing your parents. Was their shame that great of a motivator?Tammy: Had we gotten eliminated in China, it would have be shameful considering we had been there and spoke the language. But it was not so much a motivator as it is how Victor and I relate to each other. We are brother and sister. Our biggest common ground is our family so of course we are going to talk about them. Victor: Our parents have spent their entire lives investing their energy and resources into our success rather than their own, so it will be nice to be able to relieve them of that duty. And to share the spotlight with them.
When you looked around on that first day and saw the other teams, did you think you had a shot of winning? Victor: I thought we had a chance but I didn’t think we’d win. Tammy: All of my life I have been the nerdy girl who can’t play sports and is a weakling. I have no eye-hand coordination. I walked in and saw all these tall athletic and I thought, “Oh, my Lord! What have we gotten ourselves into?”
How much of your success can be attributed to playing the game and how much of it is luck?Tammy: There is a lot of luck in it. But The Amazing Race doesn’t just test one thing. It doesn’t just test physical ability or language skills or sense of direction or brains. It tests all kinds of things and I think Victor and I just persevered. Victor: I think it helped a lot to recognize — and we learned this in Romania — that there will be good and bad days. Sometimes you have a great cab driver and sometimes they get lost. There will be challenges that are right in your wheelhouse, like speaking Chinese, and there will be some that you will struggle with like swimming.
A lot of felt it was an unfair advantage that you spent three legs in a country where you speak the language. Do you agree or disagree?Victor: There is no question that speaking Chinese to waiters was completely within our nerdy abilities. The route is set in advance and they have no idea who will make it to what leg. But it balances out because there are so many different tasks and everyone has different strengths.
What was the most difficult task? Most fun? Tammy: The cartwheel was the worst. The Thai party taxi was the most fun. I loved karaoke-ing through the streets of Bangkok with the lady boys. Victor: I still don’t think the stuntmen realized they were trannies. The physical strength tasks were very hard for us like the cheese hill and carrying the pig.
What is the first thing you will buy or do with the million?Tammy: I took my entire law school education out in loans so I will be paying that back. It would have taken me 10 years of working to pay those back so it will be nice to not be saddled with such an enormous debt. I have been coveting a pair of black peeptoe Christian Louboutins. Victor: I’ve decided to bail out Citibank. Just kidding but I did email my banker today to say that I could pay down my line of credit and take care of debt.
Would you recommend doing the show to others?Tammy: Absolutely. It was the experience of a lifetime. Victor: I have watched since season 1 as a couch potato who said, “Wow that’d be fun. I should go there and do that.” If it wasn’t for Tammy saying we should apply, I’d still be sitting there. But one of the biggest lessons I learned was that you don’t need a reality show for this to be your reality. Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic