From the very first episode of this year’s Amazing Race Canada it was clear that dating couple Sam Lambert and Paul Mitskopolous were the team to beat. After all, the guys are athletic, have a great bond and were able to work through pretty much anything together once they put their minds to it.
They also happened to have more first-place finishes than any other team in the race.
On Tuesday night they brought it all home by winning the big, final leg in Quebec, beating out Team Give’r (Kenneth and Ryan) and Korey and Ivana in a first-place finish that may have brought a tear to our eyes. After all, this is a team we couldn’t help but root for from the very beginning.
But likability doesn’t necessarily translate into winning Canada’s biggest race around the world. After hightailing it through four countries, six provinces and 17 cities, we caught up with the winning couple to find out the secret formula to winning this race, how they’re planning on using all of their trips now that Sam has been accepted to medical school, and where they plan on parking their new Chevrolet Equinoxes in Toronto.
What was your secret to winning?
Lambert: The secret to any team doing well, and true for us, is a strong relationship. We understand each other really well. We work together really well. Communication is important, and working through those issues quickly. Communication under pressure was probably the thing that got us through quickly and got us through to the end at the top.
Is that something you’ve had to work at?
Mitskopolous: We definitely work at it and we got better at it throughout the race. At the beginning we weren’t communicating so well, but at the end of each leg we’d spend some time talking about what went well, what didn’t go well, what we had challenges with and what we were arguing about. That led to easier communication throughout the other legs. We tried not to take things personally or get mad at each other. It helped us in our relationship after the race as well.
It all starts with an audition, so why do you think yours stood out?
Lambert: Our audition was actually really simple, we just did a webcam video, sitting on the couch with our computer and no editing. I think we got it on the third or fourth try. I think it worked because it was authentic and it showed our relationship and our dynamic really well. That’s what they’re looking for, something that’s real and captures your relationship.
During the actual race was there a time you thought that was it, or were you confident throughout?
Mitskopolous: There were a few times that I definitely remember… In Ottawa doing the RCMP horse challenge it took me a lot longer than I’d hoped, and there was a U-Turn ahead in that leg. So we were really worried about our safety in the race. Luckily we ended up doing really well in the next challenge, but we were super worried.
Lambert: And the second U-Turn in Regina we were a little scared. We didn’t think we were going home, but it lit a fire under us and we knew we were close to the bottom and had to do something about it.
Paul, you said that you had come out to your friends and family a month before doing this race; what was it like to essentially announce it to the whole country in doing this show? Was a part of that liberating?
Mitskopolous: In the last year everyone has been finding out, especially the past three-to-six months. It definitely was liberating. It was such an experience to go out and run that race with my partner and feel even more comfortable throughout the race as time went on. And then to see the episodes air and get so many messages from people that were in the same boat is incredible. It really helped me throughout this and I hope it will help others as well. I hope we were positive role models and no matter what people are struggling with — any challenges — we just really wanted to spread that message of positivity and acceptance. No matter who you are we’re all Canadian and we need to be there to love and support each other.
Sam, you found out you were accepted to med school while doing the race — what kind of a boost was that?
Lambert: That was the most amazing thing that could have happened. It’s a highlight for me. It was unbelievable and the best news I could have received. I took a big risk applying and quitting my job so to find that out while racing… I can’t put it into words. It was incredible.
In addition to winning this lifetime trip, you won a few other trips from coming in first throughout the show. With med school and jobs, how are you going to take time to go on those?
Mitskopolous: We’re not entirely sure! We’re going to use all of the breaks we have in the next year, whether it’s breaks from school, vacation days… we’re going to take advantage of the trips we have. Hopefully we can use them up in the next few years. We’re not too sure of the restrictions yet. But we’re so excited about the opportunities that we have. We’re so excited to go out over the next… five years?
What’s number one on your list?
Lambert: We really want to take a trip to the South Pacific somewhere. Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand. That’s been at the top of our bucket list for a while.
Mitskopolous: And of the trips we have, we’re super excited to go back to China. We were there but we were in and out. Like, we were at the Great Wall of China for such a short amount of time, one of the most amazing spots in the world. So the fact that we get to go back there and really experience it… we’re super excited about that.
You both live in Toronto, so does parking now become an issue with your new trucks?
Lambert: I actually no longer live in Toronto, I moved to Hamilton a couple of weeks ago for school so it’s awesome because we can use them to see each other. But for Paul, I don’t know!
Mitskopolous: Yeah I’ll have to get a parking spot! But I am so excited I have the car.