Having won an Olympic gold medal earlier this year, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson look to add another title to their 2014: winners of the Amazing Race Canada.
After spending the past year centralized in Calgary, Alta., and making every decision with an eye toward the Olympics, Spooner and Mikkelson loved having a new and different challenge to embrace. “I had never done anything like this before and I’m always looking for things to push me out of my comfort zone,” says Mikkelson. “I knew this would be like nothing I’d ever done before.”
“When you train to play hockey you know you’re going to play a hockey game the next day,” adds Spooner. “On the Amazing Race Canada, you have no clue what you’re going to be doing. It’s mentally challenging because you don’t know what’s coming at you.”
On the show, 11 teams of two travel to various locations, completing a series of roadblocks (usually handled by one team member) and detours (both team members) along the way. Each week the last team to reach the episode’s end destination could be eliminated. The first team to reach the final finish line wins.
The duo’s audition video, made with the help of the team’s video coach, Kristopher Young, humorously highlighted their strengths, such as Spooner doing squats with Mikkelson on her back and Spooner chasing Mikkelson up some stairs.
“Natalie’s the strong one, whereas I’m the one that’s more built for endurance,” says Mikkelson, a defenceman from St. Albert, Alta. “She’s more sporadic and spontaneous, whereas I’m a bit of a perfectionist and more detail-oriented.”
Being polar opposites personality wise is what made them perfect race partners, says Spooner, a forward from Scarborough, Ont. “I’m kind of fast-paced and just want to go, but Meaghan can slow me down and make sure we read our clues properly and go to the right places.”
As elite athletes, Spooner and Mikkelson are used to competing in high-pressure situations. While they don’t see their physical abilities as giving them an advantage here, they do have a proven ability to be at their best when the stakes are high. “Having been through stressful times, we know how we’re going to react in those situations,” says Mikkelson.
What is new is competing with only one teammate, not 20. And when it comes to working on a roadblock, you’re on your own. “My worst fear is letting Meaghan down,” says Spooner. “When you play hockey there’s 20 other girls with you, so if you make a mistake there’s someone there to cover you. This time it’s just you and that roadblock. You mess up it’s your fault.”
In addition to enjoying some competitive travel, the players recognize this as a potential opportunity to bring attention to their sport. “The Olympics were such a big stride for us in that the game was so high profile,” says Spooner. “But in non-Olympic years people don’t know where we play or what we do. Hopefully, this can kind of help that and just grow the game.”
Mikkelson agrees that was one of their motivations for applying. “Going in we wanted to build the profile for women’s hockey,” she says. “We’re trying to show people that we’re not just players, but also people with personalities. We’re hoping that young female hockey players will watch and be proud that these are Olympic players.”
The Amazing Race Canada premieres July 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.