Monday, December 15, 2008

Grueling, Gross and Great:
Brother-and-sister Amazing Race Winners Look Back 

Posted by James at 11:00 AM ET

By Robert Philpot
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
When Starr Spangler and her brother Nick auditioned for The Amazing Race, Starr was a Texas Christian University student who had been a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader for three seasons.

Nick and Starr

Now the California-raised Spanglers live in New York, but their country-crossing in the States has nothing on their recent journey: traveling around the world and visiting countries in five continents on a nearly 40,000-mile trip that ended with them winning the $1 million first prize on the series’ 13th season.

The Spanglers are the youngest team ever to win the race. Nick, an off-Broadway actor, is 22; Starr, who works with autistic children, is 21. The Star-Telegram chatted with the Spanglers by phone this week about their victory:

Starr, did your experience as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader help you prepare for the race?

Starr: Not only physically, but mentally. The Amazing Race is very challenging in every aspect, and being a cheerleader is extremely challenging in every aspect. The cheerleaders have a reality show [CMT’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team], and I did three seasons of it. I knew what to expect. I know what it’s like to have a camera in your face. And Nick being an actor . . . we really knew what to be prepared for.

Nick: Some of the other contestants, that really threw ’em off in the beginning.

The last flight of the race was from Moscow to Portland, Ore. How does the jet lag affect your performance?

Starr: We had a very short pit stop going from Russia to Portland. I think Nick and I had a total of an hour and a half in a hotel room where we could decently shower and lay down for 45 minutes before we had to get up and go to the airport. So it really was exhausting, and by the time we hit the ground, we were tired. But the adrenalin carries you through, and you just go and you don’t feel the exhaustion till you get to the mat.

Nick: It is really disorienting. On one leg, we flew from Bolivia to New Zealand. We crossed the international date line, and we spent like 45 minutes just trying to figure out what day it was. . . . But everybody’s in the same boat, and seeing the other teams and knowing they’re all going to the same place, that’s what keeps you going.

You worked well as a team, but surely you had some sibling rivalry growing up.

Nick: When we were in elementary and high school, we didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. We argued a lot, pretty bitterly and rudely. But once we both got into college and we were separated by 3,000 miles, we actually started talking to each other on the phone. We were becoming adults at the same time, and we had somebody to go through it with.

Was there any task that made you say, "I can’t believe I have to do this"?

Starr: The only thing that was really difficult for us was in leg four, when we were in New Zealand, we had to crush kiwis with our feet. And Nick and I physically could not do it. Our feet were cut up, and we weren’t getting a drip compared to other teams.

Nick: What always scared me, honestly, was just being dropped in a foreign country not knowing the language. You are truly alone. Starr and I were a 21- and a 22-year-old, alone, dropped in the middle of India. If we get into a confrontation with a local, our camera crew doesn’t say, "Excuse me, sir, could you calm down." They’re not helping us out.

Racers talk about what a blur the race is, and how you don’t really get to enjoy the countries you visit. Where would you like to return?

Starr: For me, it would be New Zealand. We were there for less than 24 hours, and it was just absolutely gorgeous. It was a really tough leg for Nick, but I remember we were up on Mount Eden, and it was raining and there was a beautiful rainbow, and we were in the middle of racing and Nick said, "Starr, stop. Come look at this rainbow." And at the moment, I was like, "No, no, we’ve gotta go, we’ve gotta keep going." I wish I’d taken that minute to enjoy where we were.

Nick: For me, it’s more Cambodia. We actually did get some time to look around and explore there. But that place is just another world.

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