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Hockey playing Battaglia brothers win 'The Amazing Race' grand prize of $1 million

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 2:20 p.m. MDT

George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Va., home was the last Pit Stop and finish line for “The Amazing Race.”

Season 22’s final three teams — hockey players and brothers Bates and Anthony Battaglia, newlyweds Max and Katie Bichler and roller derby moms Mona Egender and Beth Bandimere — flew from Ireland via London’s Heathrow airport to Washington, D.C., where they went to the Lincoln Memorial and had other challenges around the city, not the least of which was navigating traffic and taxis.

And in the end, it was the Battaglia brothers who were first to the last Pit Stop, winning $1 million in Sunday's finale.

Anthony Battaglia played for the Utah Grizzlies in 2005.

They traveled through five continents, 10 countries and went more than 30,000 miles.

“You made it around the world with your false teeth,” host Phil Keoghan teased 33-year-old Anthony Battagila. “They didn’t fall into your mouth and you didn’t choke.”

The Bichlers were second and Engender and Bandimere were third, all three teams completing all 12 legs of the race.

Salt Lake father/son team Dave and Connor O’Leary were at the finish line with the other seven eliminated teams — with Dave on crutches and his foot in a medical boot. The O'Learys are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Holladay 25th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay South Stake.

The O'Learys, both cancer survivors, withdrew from the race in Hanoi, Vietnam, during the fifth leg of the race so Dave O’Leary could have surgery for a leg injury.

O’Leary injured his leg, including a detached Achilles tendon, at the end of the second leg of the Race when they were in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. He had an ultrasound on it the following morning during a layover in Tahiti, and with a medical boot and crutches, they continued to run the race to New Zealand and then to Bali, Indonesia, winning both of those legs of the race.

After consulting with an orthopedic surgeon back in Utah, they decided to withdraw from the race in Vietnam, and flew back to the states for surgery.

“I was so disappointed to go out the way we did," 58-year-old Dave O’Leary, who is a prostate cancer survivor, said during the finale. “We had a such a fabulous experience.”

He had stitches out two days before the finale and is expecting to make a full recovery.

“Coming back is bittersweet. It’s good. It’s fun to see the other teams, but at the same time, it’s hard to see, you know, what could have been. But that’s life,” said 21-year-old Connor O’Leary, who is a testicular cancer survivor. “We’re happy for Bates and Anthony.”

Keoghan tweeted: “Who knows what might have happened if #DaveConner didn’t have an injury … what could have been? #AmazingRace

It took a few minutes for the Battagila brothers’ win to sink in as they stood on the mat.

“I can’t remember the last time I felt like this,” 36-year-old Bates Battagila told Keoghan. “It hasn’t come from hockey in a long time. … It’s pretty amazing.”

The two-hour season finale that aired Sunday, May 5, started with four teams, including country singers Caroline Cutbirth and Jennifer Kuhle.

The teams traveled from Scotland to Belfast, Northern Ireland, via a ferry and then drove themselves to Peatlands Park, where a member of each team had to bog snorkel 100 feet in under four minutes at the Road Block. Then they had to drive to the “Thing with a Ring,” which was the Beacon of Hope statue, for their next clue. And then at the Detour, they either had to “Tray it” and serve a five-course meal from the last first class Titanic menu to a dinner set up in the dry dock where the ship was built or “Spray It” and finish graffiti art at an urban center with a photo for reference.

Kuhle struggled with the bog snorkeling and the other teams were at the “Tray It.”

At “Tray It,” they had to serve the courses to the right people in the right order. They received a seating chart with two selections — the second course soup and the dessert (where they learned what color chartreuse is) — but had to read the full menu for the other courses and the correct order. All of them initially missed the full menu, but it took Egender and Bandimere the longest to figure that out.

The Bichlers won that leg of the race and were just minutes ahead of the Battagila brothers to the mat at Ulster Hall. Cutbirth and Kuhle were eliminated.

The last leg of the race sent the teams to Washington, D.C., and their first clue led to the Lincoln Memorial, where they stood where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech,” and then to 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. (the White House is at 1600) for a photo “with” the president at a photo/souvenir shop. Egender and Bandimere got lost on the way to 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, and weren’t able to take the lead.

The teams, with the Bichlers in the lead, then went to the Tidal Basin for a Switchback, where they had to use a password to ferret out a particular secret agent among 50 who wandering along the pathways and make a briefcase switch. The agent then gave them a clue to opening the case — the order they finished in New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam. The Battagila brothers got their briefcase switch first and took the lead.

Next, they went to Nationals Park, where one soared above the field on a zip line and tossed a ball to their partner on the ground who was dressed in a baseball mascot costume. Once the partner on the ground successfully caught the dropped ball, it was one to Hains Point for the final challenge. There they found a tank filled with inflated beach balls resembling world globes, some with countries they had visited outlined. After finding te balls with the countries they visited during “The Amazing Race,” they had to put them in the correct order.

And then it was on to Mount Vernon.

"I honestly can't talk right now, I'm so nervous that we're not going to the right place," Bates Battagila said in the taxi on the way to Mount Vernon. "The rest of my hair may fall out and it may turn gray in the next five minutes."

Overall, they were strong competitors who encouraged each other throughout the 21-day Race.

"This might haunt us if we're in the wrong spot," Anthony said. Bates added "Oh, it would be the worst."

However, they were in the right spot.

Email: rappleye@desnews.com Twitter: CTRappleye

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