Sometimes it’s easy to watch a show like The Amazing Race Canada (Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET, CTV) from the comfort of your couch and judge the decisions that a particular team is making. But let’s be real: you never really know how you’ll react in any given situation until you’re actually in it.
Tuesday night’s leg, in which the teams travelled from Winnipeg to P.E.I., certainly seemed to fit that bill. The episode was filled with challenging moments, from a culinary scramble to a ginormous mouse-hunt. But for front-runners Leanne and Mar, it took an actual apocalypse to bring them down. When the cheerleaders were faced with a claustrophobic, zombie-inspired paintball challenge, they opted to take a two-hour time penalty instead.
Unfortunately, that decision cost them the race.
We caught up with the girls following their elimination to discuss their mental breaking point, find out how their definition of a hero has changed, and to learn who they hope will win this thing.
Has your definition of a hero changed after doing the show?
Leanne: I’ve always thought of heroes as anyone who helps or brings joy to someone else. I think society has a stereotype around what a hero is and I think a hero can be anyone. Being a hero does not have to be defined by job title or a particular event. A person who helps someone else out with a small task in their eyes can be a hero. An athlete who signs a jersey for a child can be a hero, or helping someone who’s having a bad day cheer up could make you a hero.
Mar: My definition of what a hero is hasn’t changed, it’s just made me realized how many people fall under the definition of heroes.
How do you suppose you’ve helped changed people’s minds on what a “cheerleader” actually is/does?
Mar: I really believe we have changed the perspective of cheerleading for many viewers out there. The show illustrates our love and passion for the programs we work with and also highlights the strength and athleticism that we have. I really hope our involvement with the show encourages viewers to research their local CFL teams to support the women and men across the country and the community groups they work with.
Leanne: We do a lot more than show up on game day to dance, smile and shake pom-poms. I am blessed to know cheerleaders and dancers for multiple sports teams across Canada and I know first-hand the amount of work that goes into being an athlete and upholding your title as a cheerleader. The amount of community involvement sports teams have is amazing and I think it’s great that cheerleaders are involved in this to showcase that we really are a family. Giving back to the community is what it’s all about because without the community behind the team (yes this includes cheerleaders) none of us would be doing what we love.
Has doing the race inspired you to be more of a hero in your own community?
Leanne: Definitely. Even though I have retired as an Argonauts Cheerleader, I still will remain involved in the Huddle Up Anti-Bullying Program and make sure I continuously complete small daily tasks to assist someone else and help make a positive impact on their day.
Mar: This race made me realize that I am much more powerful than I thought I was. I have grown emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It has opened my eyes for the potential I have and the difference I can make in my community. I hope to just keep pushing and start my own program now that I am located in Ottawa.
Was there anyone in particular on the race who inspired you most?
Mar: I really resonated with Nancy. She is honestly a second mother to me and I find myself reaching out to her often for advice and words of encouragement. I view her as such a powerful, resilient woman. She is the epitome of hero, role model and mother. Her daughter Kate is a very lucky girl to have such a strong role model in her life.
Leanne: Mar really inspired me. Just having her by my side day in and day out reminded me why we were doing this. There’s always a bigger picture and it’s always been more than us. We did this to give back to the kids and the schools within the Greater Toronto Area. We want to assist in making an impact to minimize and completely stop bullying.
Over the course of your race, what were each of your biggest mental breaking points and how did you overcome them?
Leanne: My biggest breaking point was during the paintball challenge in P.E.I. I’ve never been paintballing before and didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me. I suffer from claustrophobia and as soon as I put on the mask I felt caged in and I hate feeling enclosed. This was very difficult for me and I am thankful that I had Mar to help me through it.
Mar: That [challenge] unfortunately cost us the race. I learned a lot about myself and I’m happy Leanne was by my side to support me through that.
Physically was there anything super hard that we didn’t necessarily see?
Leanne: I personally found the crabbing challenge difficult. Paddling out and pulling up that rope after the previous challenges, while trying not to tip off the board was very difficult and I know our arms were burning. It was mind over matter and a constant mental reminder to push past the pain for this and luckily we didn’t give up as we came in first place for that leg.
Mar: I don’t think people understand how emotionally draining this race is. This race is exhausting: constantly feeling anxious and stressed, the fear of the unknown and not knowing your destination, missing your family etc. I am so proud of myself for getting as far as I did and I am leaving this race with absolutely no regrets.
Who do you hope will take this thing home?
Leanne: Dylan and Kwame are two people I look up to. I think it’s the connection with sports, the community and the kids. They are two kind, caring, and determined individuals and if it can’t be us to take home the prize and give back to our community then I’d love nothing more to see them win. Kids are the future and the communities we live in need to be a safe place for these kids to thrive and grow. What they do is truly amazing and I constantly applaud them for all their selfless work.
Mar: Every single person running this race deserves to win. The only thing I hope for is that they give back in some way to their community: donate, start an organization, make a difference in someone’s life.