After some terrible luck with taxis, a missed train and one incredibly slick hill, Jennifer Hopka, 26, and Preston McCamy, 28, a feisty couple from Columbia, S.C., became the unfortunate first team eliminated from The Amazing Race 14. Despite bickering on the show, the nursing student and software engineer are happy to report their relationship survived reality TV and they are even discussing marriage. — Carrie Bell
What made you want to run the Race?Preston: Who wouldn’t want to go across the world on someone else’s dime for a chance at $1 million dollars? It is a no brainer.
It must have hurt to become the last team to arrive by a handful of seconds.Preston: I was really upset. I am super competitive and I hate to lose anything. And to watch the other team take our spot right in front of our face was painful.
Jennifer: We were surprised to be the first team eliminated. Our friends and family were so surprised. They expected us to last a lot longer.
You don’t really fit the typical profile of first team eliminated. What went wrong?Jennifer: The Race is mostly based on luck and you don’t realize that until you are on it. You are not in control of every situation. The language barrier was our number one downfall. Most of us spoke Spanish, but that didn’t help in Switzerland. In three days of racing, we never had a taxi driver who spoke English. The only word we understood was no. You can’t tell them not to take this turn or you can’t say five miles down the road take a U-turn. There was a lot of taxi drama.
Preston: We also ran out of money. We didn’t have any to pay the taxi guy in the end. It was super frustrating. Everyone who took our flight didn’t have enough money at the end but the who took the other flight had enough left to go in on a pizza. We were begging for 75 francs at the end just to stay in the race.
Jennifer: We were so hungry. Our plan going in was to try and not spend any extra money. I was going to flirt or beg for food. We got one piece of bread between the two of us for three days and then were expected to run and do challenges. Not sleeping or eating for days takes a toll on you.
It seemed that you were fighting from day one but Preston also said that’s your thing. Do you think that energy could have been sustained throughout the Race?Jennifer: It looked worse than it was. We really only fought in the beginning on the train platform after we missed the train and we were tired and hungry. We would have fought occasionally if we had stayed because it puts stress on your relationship and you can’t say, “Leave me alone and let me cool off,” but we were a lot more positive than that most of the time.
Preston: The only times we bickered were when we would sit down and stop running. When it came to a challenge, we were on point and we were encouraging and doing what we needed to do.
As far as first legs go, this one was a doozey. What was the toughest part? The most fun?Jennifer: The hardest thing was by far the cheese challenge. That hill was basically a cliff it was so steep. It had just rained so the grass was wet and it was a herding hill so there was poop everywhere. We were sliding in poop all the way down. And I only weigh 120 pounds so I was basically carrying my body weight in cheese and could barely stand up.
Preston: And the carriers were made terribly. They were as big as Mike and Mark. When we did the press pictures, I got down on my knees and realized they were about as tall as me on my knees.
To add insult to injury, the locals were laughing at you.Preston: I wanted to take them out so bad.
Preston: It wasn’t all miserable. Getting to do stuff that I’d never done before was hands down the best part. We rode in a helicopter and I’d never done that before. I’d never flown international or ridden in a train through Switzerland.
Jennifer: Preston doesn’t get out much. You just made it sound like you don’t get to do anything at home. I can’t pick one best moment because it was all a priceless experience. I would never be able to afford to go to Europe. And we’ve got 20 new friends. We are an extended family now.
Who would win based on your first impressions?Jennifer: Before even going on the Race, I know that couples bicker and siblings or parent/child teams usually do better and get along better. I pinpointed the sibling teams and Margie and Luke.
Preston: Since we couldn’t talk to anybody at first, I went by who looked the most intelligent and the most athletic. I thought Victor and Tammy looked like a good team. I thought Chris was my main physical competition. Mike and Mark might do decent and Kiesha and Jen. Those were my top four.
You said that the race would either make or break you as a couple. It has now been several months. What’s the verdict? Jennifer: When we left, we got three weeks in Thailand and we had never been together twentyfour-seven for that long before. We don’t live together. We didn’t have to fight for a million dollars. The stress of the Race was gone so we could communicate and talk. We learned a lot about each other and will continue to learn what to say and what buttons not to push. That three weeks made us grow stronger and put our relationship in perspective so our relationship is stronger now than it has ever been.
Preston: Absolutely. Thailand started off rocky. We were both disappointed about losing and it took me a minute to get over it, but after the first day that time was very good for us.
Any marriage plans?Jennifer: We’ve been talking about it, but we have time. There’s a lot I want to do like move back to L.A. before we settle down and talk about kids. Robert Voets/CBS