"THE AMAZING RACE" — KUTV, Jan. 10, 7 p.m. MST, TV-PG
SALT LAKE CITY — “The Amazing Race” has officially begun, and with that, contestants from across the globe are channeling their inner tourist warriors for a shot at $1 million.
Among the former NBA players, Yale debaters and competitive hot dog eaters are Utahn Jen Hudak and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints April Gould. Gould's teammate Sarah Williams is also LDS, and Gould said the two would pray before each leg of the race.
“I wore my Young Women's medallion because I wanted to always have a little piece of my girls with me,” said Gould, an Arizona native. “One's 12 and the other is 15, so I had that with me and I had my little CTR ring because I wanted to think of my little 8-year-old son — so that was always a part of me.”
But if competing away from her family and children is a challenge, being away from her yoga-enthused goats only adds to the troubles.
“I miss my people kids and my goat kids,” she said.
As Gould explained, there’s been a huge craze around she and her teammate, who regularly perform yoga with goats in attendance. Previously, while preparing for the popular show “American Ninja Warrior,” Gould says she would frequently train with her goats, doing push-ups and squats with them. Through the odd circumstance that Williams taught yoga, the two ideas came together. In fact, Gould’s nickname around crowds is “The Goat Whisperer.”
Gould admitted “The Amazing Race” has been her dream for some time. She has seen every season and has thought a lot of being in previous contestants’ shoes.
“It's so easy to judge on TV, but when you're actually in the race, it's real, and you are lost and you don't know what position you're in. You don't know where you're at in the race — you don't know if you're even still in the race.”
To prepare, Gould employed the help of her husband, who is an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster. He taught her how to read compasses and maps, and tie knots in the event of any bamboo-fashioned raft action. Occasionally, Gould said, she would also head to one of the increasingly popular “escape rooms.” These rooms confine its guests with only a series of difficult clues to help them escape, and getting out requires serious mental strength.
Jen Hudak, a native of the Utah mountain slopes and two-time world champion and five-time X-Games world medalist, prepared for the race a little differently. She and her partner, Kristi Leskinen, come from a professional skiing background they later abandoned over health concerns.
“We were tired because our sport got too dangerous,” Hudak said. “But at the same time, we enjoy dangerous activities and things that are adrenaline-filled. I mean, our sport at our level — we've had friends pass away and people get permanently injured. Irreversibly injured.”
In comparison, she welcomed “The Amazing Race” as an opportunity to travel the world with interesting people and experience the thrills of competition once more.
“I retired two years ago from competitive skiing, and traveling has been the one thing that has been hard to fit in,” she said. “I work a 9 to 5.”
Hudak noted that the hardest part of the competition’s first leg was realizing how important maps and cellphones are.
Of course, Hudak doesn’t like to be known as the slow one either.
“Kristi and I both, we're pretty smart cookies,” she said. “You don't necessarily see that in our skiing because we just don't have the opportunity to show it off, but we're both pretty smart and I think our mental acuity is something that people wouldn't necessarily expect to see out of us.”
Hudak attended the University of Utah throughout her ski career in between injuries and time off. After an on-and-off education consisting of crammed schedules, she finally finished her bachelor’s in psychology just last year and now works as a marketing account manager.1 comment on this story
According to Gould, this last episode of “The Amazing Race,” which took place in Iceland, happened to draw the highest ratings in the series’ 30-season span. Although happy about the stardom, she also prefers to be grounded by her family — goats included.
Hudak, on the other hand, is happy to have a competitive rivalry similar to what she experienced while skiing.
“It's such an unusual and unique opportunity and experience to be on ‘The Amazing Race,’ so even though we obviously wanted to beat everybody in everything that we're doing, we also felt really connected to them.”