It has finally happened! For the first 16 seasons of The Amazing Race, an all-women team never won. People have different theories for why and teams have come close. Some openly wondered if it was ever going to happen. Well, this week, Nat Strand and Kat Chang became the first women to win The Amazing Race. With the same cool, intelligence and teamwork that propelled them around the world, Nat and Kat dominated the final leg in Los Angeles. (And for good measure, Brook and Claire, the other all-woman finalists, placed second.)
The three teams started the leg on the same flight from South Korea to L.A. Racing in taxicabs to the Long Beach port, teams bungee-jumped off a giant shipping platform. From there, they rode helicopters across Los Angeles to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, where one member had to decorate a float for the Rose Parade. Once complete, teams were given a clue which tested their knowledge of Don Quixote and other trivia to discover the next location. This was not an easy clue, and every team needed some way to access the Internet in order to figure out. Once solved, the clue directed them to Soundstage 7 of Quixote Studios, where Bob Eubanks awaited with the final “game show” memory challenge. Teams had to remember the eleven greeters from the prior legs before racing to the finish line and $1 million.
In last week’s blog, I openly worried about Nat and Kat’s ability to win. I questioned whether they would be able to “take it up a notch.” I predicted they couldn’t win unless both Jill and Thomas and Brook and Claire made a big mistake. I was wrong. It wasn’t even close. Nat and Kat jumped to the lead right off the plane, never looked back and finished the final task before anyone else even started. Once they went into the game-show task in first place, I knew Nat and Kat would win. Their strength is staying cool and being smart – exactly what that final task required.
I feel bad for Jill and Thomas. I imagine they feel robbed by a bad cab driver. It does seem unfortunate that ultimate placements seemed determined less by tasks and more by the taxicab lottery. While I can see it from that perspective, they did make some minor mistakes. Nat and Kat made sure they got a cab driver that could help them figure out where to go. Jill and Thomas got stuck with a driver that wasn’t screened. Brook and Claire were in a similar situation, but instead of trying to communicate in a way that the cab driver did not understand, they simplified and asked to be taken to a hotel. By not adapting to the situation, Jill and Thomas were passed by Brook and Claire.
Because Nat and Kat were so dominant, there was little drama in the final leg. The truth is, even if Jill and Thomas had found Quixote Studios with no problem, it seems like Nat and Kat still would have won because they were never going to surrender that lead. Jill and Thomas needed the final task to be harder in order to have a chance. In my season, my sister and I were in third place headed to the memory task. In the cab, we knew we were in trouble. The only thing I kept thinking was, “We need the next task to be really hard.” I was lucky that worked out.
Personally, I think the memory task should not be a team task. I also don’t think racers should be allowed to complete it with their notes. Now, let me be clear: I still think Nat and Kat would have won. I just think a tougher final task gives teams more of a chance to catch up, creates more drama for the leg and really requires the winning team to work for their victory.
In hindsight, I feel stupid for ever doubting Nat and Kat. They represent everything admirable about a winning team. Welcome to the winners’ circle, and thank you for finally putting to rest the question about all-women teams. The answer was always “yes.” It just took a team like Nat and Kat for it to finally happen. Congratulations!