Salt Lake father-son team sets out to win third leg of 'The Amazing Race' with one on crutches
Robert Voets, CBS Broadcasting
Salt Lake father-son team Dave and Connor O’Leary successfully raced through airports, a river in a jet boat, muddy trails on ATVs and navigated winding roads in New Zealand while Dave was on crutches with a leg injury in an emotional episode of the third leg of “The Amazing Race” on Sunday.
While their ability to continue is still in question, no one was eliminated by the end of Sunday’s episode, and viewers were left with a “To Be Continued.”
Dave O’Leary, 58, felt his Achilles tendon pop running to the Pit Stop in the French Polynesian island Motu Tapu at the end of the second leg of the race. They arrived seconds after professional hockey players and brothers Anthony and Bates Battaglia.
“At this point, it’s not over until it’s over,” said O’Leary. He and his son are both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Holladay 25th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay South Stake. “We’re not quitters. We’re not going to quit, and we’ll wait and see what happens."
In this leg of the race, the teams flew from Bora Bora to Papeete, Tahiti, and then to Auckland, New Zealand, and onto Christchurch. From there, they drove to the gorgeous Rakaia River Gorge.
Time was on their side during the flights.
The O’Learys left on the second flight to Tahiti and there had to go to a hospital to get a sonogram.
The sonogram showed two tears, including the Achilles tendon, and they went to a pharmacy to get a boot for him to wear for that leg of the race — which they were determined to win.
“I think we’re here because of what we’ve gone through in the past — both of us are cancer survivors,” O'Leary said.
Dave O'Leary is a prostate cancer survivor and 21-year-old Connor O'Leary is a testicular cancer survivor.
“We came here to run the race as far as we could run it,” an emotional Dave O'Leary said after the visit to the hospital. “And it got cut short a little bit.”
In the first episode, the O’Learys were part of an alliance to secure a second Express Pass given to dating couple and surfers John Erck and Jessica Hoel, who won the first leg of the race. The O’Learys were second from the alliance to cross the finish line on that leg. While Erk and Hoel were initially a little hesitant to give the O’Learys the Express Pass.
“Dave is injured and so they won’t be as competitive,” Erck said of giving the O’Learys the Express Pass. “Ultimately for us, Jess and I want to beat the hockey players, so we’re hoping they will help us play some defense against the hockey players.”
Because the flights to Auckland didn’t leave until the following morning, the O’Learys didn’t lose any time.
Connor O’Leary pushed his father through the airport in Auckland and made the second of four flights the teams were on to Christchurch.
“Look at Dave go! The fastest man on crutches,” Phill Keoghan tweeted during Sunday’s episode. And another one of his next tweets was, “Is it possible for Mr Hopalong can win this leg with his leg the way it is?”
Friends Pamela Chien and Winnie Sung got on the first flight to Christchurch, and the second flight also included the three-team alliance of Erck and Hoel, roller-derby moms Mona Egender and Beth Bandimere and YouTube hosts Joey Graceffa and Meghan Camarena. Newlyweds Max and Katie Bichler, who are suspicious of everyone, were also on that flight.
On the third flight were the hockey brothers and country singers Caroline Cutbirth and Jennifer Kuhle, who also have an alliance. And Chuck and Wyona McCall, the married couple from Alabama, were on the fourth flight, and they were last into the camp.
Once there, the O’Learys were the first team to drive to the campsite at Rakaia River Gorge and were the first to get a spot on the jet boat tours the next morning.
Realistically, Dave and Connor O'Leary knew their time in the race could end and they might need to use the Express Pass to bypass a detour or roadblock.
“I don’t know how many legs we can keep going honestly with this injury,” Connor said. Dave had his boot wrapped in plastic as he used crutches to walk and run.
“I don’t want to go home,” Dave O'Leary said. “I want to finish this for him.”
Dave drove the jet boat up the Rakaia River Gorge and both were enjoying the picturesque scenery.
The teams had two choices of detours. One was “Rev It Up,” where both team members drive a vintage car through a course with cones in less than 83 seconds. In “Reel It In,” both team members must catch a fish at least 12 inches long.
The father-son duo headed out for “Rev It Up,” but as the cars have clutches and Dave couldn’t drive the cars due to his leg, they went to “Reel It In.”
But driving a standard was a problem for other couples, too, as it took multiple times to get their times under 83 seconds, including Katie Bichler, who had just learned a stick shift. The country singers also had minimal experience with a standard. Only one other team, the McCalls from Alabama, went fishing.
After trying to catch fish and being unsuccessful, the O’Learys used the Express Pass to get the next clue, which led them to Mount Hutt Station and a roadblock. There, they competed in a Shemozzle Race that requires one team member to dress as a Kiwi shepherd, pair with a shepherd and farm dog, and run through an obstacle course, including crawling through molasses and feathers and a tube in a manure run while collecting eggs. They had to put 12 unbroken eggs in a basket to get the next clue.
Connor O'Leary did this race, collecting five unbroken eggs the first two times through the course and then the last two on his third time.
“How did Connor hold on to those eggs in that slide. That was impressive!” Keoghan tweeted.
They finished the roadblock before any of the other teams arrived there, leaving them in first.
“I don’t think anyone has won an episode of ‘The Amazing Race’ on crutches,” Dave O’Leary said as they drove to Terrace Downs in Canterbury, New Zealand. (They watched all seasons of the show in preparation for their race.) “This will be one for the history books.”
Both were realistic about their future in “The Amazing Race.”
“This could be one of our last legs,” Connor said. “We’re obviously not going to be as competitive as the other teams now. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
“We’ve done the best we can,” Dave said. “At this point it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The O’Learys were the first to the Pit Stop, with Dave still on crutches and Connor carrying both bags, winning that leg of the race and a trip to Thailand, including a Thai boxing class.
But when Keoghan was handing them the next clue, Dave O'Leary was hesititant to accept it.
“You up to this, you guys?” Keoghan asked them.
“I’ve got to focus on some recovery here,” Dave responded.
“It certainly was going through my mind whether we needed to drop out,” Dave said in a separate interview. “I honestly don’t have any idea if we can keep going."
“This is the most frustrating thing,” Dave told Keoghan.
And the episode ended with a “To Be Continued.”
None of the other teams had made it to the Pit Stop yet. Friends and surfers Erck and Hoel were second after the roadblock. The Battaglia brothers and the Bichler newlyweds were last to the roadblock with the Shemozzle Race.
While the O’Learys' future in the race is uncertain, their fellow teammates and Keoghan complimented their relationship and support for one another.
Previews for the next episode show the teams heading to Bali and had clips of country singers Caroline Cutbirth and Jennifer Kuhle, along with the always upbeat YouTube hosts Joey Graceffa and Meghan Camarena.
“The Amazing Race” airs Sundays on CBS.
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