Sonja Flemming, CBS Broadcasting
Winning “The Amazing Race: All-Stars” prize of $1 million and making history as the first child-parent team to win the reality competition is still sinking in for Salt Lake residents and cancer survivors Dave and Connor O’Leary.
The O'Learys arrived first at the "Pit Stop" mat during the show’s finale Sunday evening after a race leg that included performing an illusion act with magician David Copperfield and jumping from a helicopter.
Host Phil Keoghan was waiting for them along with the eight previously eliminated teams.
“It’s still pretty unbelievable to us,” said Dave O’Leary, 59, a real estate investor, during an interview with the Deseret News. Dave O’Leary is also the oldest person to win “The Amazing Race.”
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Connor O’Leary, 22, who is a professional cyclist and a University of Utah student.
Dave O’Leary is a prostate cancer survivor and Connor O’Leary had testicular cancer. Both are still cancer-free. 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.
This season of “The Amazing Race” included 11 returning teams racing around the world for $1 million as they followed clues in yellow and red envelopes, navigating transportation systems and completing challenges called "road blocks" and "detours" along the way.
“Any one of those teams could have been on the mat,” Dave O’Leary said. “We did some things right, and we made some mistakes.”
In their previous run on “The Amazing Race” in season 22, Dave O’Leary suffered a detached Achilles tendon running to the mat during the second leg. They ultimately withdrew during the fifth leg of the race. Dave had to have surgery and physical therapy.
His leg is “doing great,” Dave O’Leary said. They were careful during this race and, at times, Connor carried both of their bags.
During their previous race, they won a trip to Thailand and used that as their excuse for why they were gone during the filming of season 24.
“We had to be slightly deceptive,” Dave O’Leary said.
Season 24 took them through China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
One of their most memorable and enjoyable experiences was fishing in Sri Lanka, a country Connor said he would like to go back and visit.
“In Sri Lanka, one of the greatest things we did was get to climb out on those platforms out on the surf and fish,” Dave O’Leary said. “That was such a neat experience to be out on the platforms that have been there, they looked to have been there for decades, and have these guys out there who were really fishing” for their livelihood.
Connor O’Leary said the toughest leg was when they went to England and Wales, which included driving themselves to each location, kicking soccer penalty shots and shooting clay pigeons.
“We had been so lost all day and we were in last place most of the day,” Connor O’Leary said.
And it was a leg they ended up winning.
“I was in disbelief,” he said. “I thought there was going to be one more challenge.”
One of the more talked about events of the season was when the O’Learys were surprised by a U-turn from newlyweds Brendon Villegas, 33, and Rachel Reilly, 30, nicknamed "the Brenchels," forcing the O’Learys to do both detour challenges instead of one during the eighth leg of the race.
Because the O’Learys were second to the U-Turn board, they in turn U-turned another team — the "Afghanimals," cousins Leo Temory, 27, and Jamal Zadran, 26 — even though cowboys and brothers Cord McCoy, 33, and 34-year-old Jet McCoy, of Oklahoma, were right behind them.
Dave O’Leary said they didn’t U-turn the cowboys because they would have likely competed the challenge — riding mules — very quickly.
During Sunday’s episode, the last challenge featured Dave O’Leary, who has a fear of heights, flying in a helicopter above the Las Vegas strip and then skydiving from 10,000 feet in a futuristic suit into Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was a tight race with country singers Caroline Cutbirth, 30, and Jennifer Wayne, 31. Cutbirth was in a second helicopter and looking for the same marker.
Parachuting out of the helicopter “felt like I was watching someone else doing it," Dave O’Leary said.
After landing, he met up with Connor and the two ran to the Pit Stop mat for the final time of Season 24.
“It’s not something I’ll do again,” Dave said of jumping out of a helicopter.
Cutbirth and Wayne were second, and the Brenchels were third.
Teams started Sunday’s episode in Peckforton Castle in England. As the O’Learys were first to arrive at the Pit Stop in the previous leg, they were the first of the three teams to leave, followed by Cutbirth and Wayne and then the Brenchels.
Their clue told them to make their way to Las Vegas, where the Brenchels are from.
In Las Vegas, they went to the desert to dig up a box, then met up with magician David Copperfield for an illusion.
“You turn around and there was David Copperfield. It was crazy,” Connor O’Leary said during the show. “When I was 8 years old, I had a David Copperfield magic kit I asked for it for Christmas. It’s a dream come true.”
Each locked in a wooden crate, the racers had to use their ring of 50 keys from their box and find the one to free their hands and feet, and then get the lock picks from outside the crate and pick the front lock before the crate was lit on fire and dropped. Their team member watched from a monitor.
“This is nerve-wracking to me,” Dave said as Connor competed in the challenge. ”I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had just sent my son to death in flames.”
Connor O'Leary showed up unharmed, dressed like a firefighter.
They were first to leave the road block challenge and go to the Neon Boneyard Park to for their next clue, which sent them to the Mirage hotel. There, they had to put in and count the lightbulbs in the “I” on the Mirage sign — some 30 stories up.
It became a race of taxi drivers and traffic to get from place to place, and the Brenchels were not pleased with their taxi driver and tried to take the country singers’ taxi.
Cutbirth and Wayne were first to the Mirage, even though they were last to leave the boneyard. The O’Learys were second.
“This view is absolutely amazing,” Connor O’Leary said as they were lifted up to the sign.
“I bet it is. I bet it’s great I’m not looking down to find out,” Dave O’Leary said.
They were first to finish the lightbulb challenge.
“This is a close race,” Connor said. “It’s really tight right now.”
They then went to Maverick Helicopters in Henderson for the final challenge.
“Quite a comeback,” Dave said of winning on the show. “Quite a comeback,” Connor agreed.
As for their prize money, the pair plans to save most of it.
“I’ll save the majority of the money and also donate to cancer research,” Connor O’Leary said. Dave is also planning to save as he has an eye toward retirement in a few years.
The O'Learys also won five of the other 11 legs of the race and received prizes including a pair of Ford Mustangs; trips to Hungary, St. Croix and Fiji; and $5,000 each.
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