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It wasn’t unusual over the summer for Calgarians Ty Smith and Kat Kastner to join family and friends when watching episodes of the ninth season of Amazing Race Canada.
But on Tuesday night, the couple decided to relive their triumphant win and watch the season finale in a quieter fashion.
It was an exciting episode that featured everything from helicopters, to Highland dancing, to crossword puzzles, to zooming around on a jet-ski off of Georges Island in Halifax Harbour.
“This is going to sound lame, but we honestly just watched in a hotel room . . . just the two of us,” says Smith, who joined Kastner for a Zoom interview with Postmedia on Wednesday morning from Toronto. “We were obviously inundated with phone calls and text messages and people trying to reach out with brought some smiles to our faces, but we definitely wanted it to be intimate. This is a pretty special moment in our lives and a pretty big chapter.
“For us, we wanted to fully engulf ourselves in the episode and fully take us back to Halifax and that whole day. Once again, it was a gruelling day. There was so many highs, so many lows, there was so many emotions. I think, for us, we wanted to fully be present as we watched one of the greatest days of our lives unfold on national television.”
“Both of our families had watch parties at home, so we ended up face-timing them after but we just shared the experience with us two,” added Kastner.
Tuesday’s finale found the remaining three teams, which also included Calgarian Tyler Turner and girlfriend Kayleen Vandervee and Winnipeg friends Ben Chutta and Anwar Ahmed, often neck-in-neck in the various challenges. But, in the end, it was a teary Ty and Kat who were declared the winners by Jon Montgomery at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax as past competitors cheered them on.
The season, which was filmed in the spring, took 10 teams 12,000 kilometres through six provinces and 11 cities and a number of challenges. Raised in Leduc, Smith survived the devastating 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 people. Now based in Calgary, he is a public speaker and mental health advocate. Kastner, who was born and raised in Calgary, is described as. a client success specialist. Smith said the team would be racing for “everything they lost and for everyone was was impacted by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.”
The team had a strong start in the first leg, which aired July 4. It saw Smith and Kastner take their first win in their hometown in an episode that included memorizing Calgary Stampede pancake orders and participating in a drum circle and ended on the Peace Bridge.
“To be able to come back home and win that first leg as much as we didn’t really have expectations, I think after that it really allowed us to shine a light on the fact that we could possibly do this,” says Smith.
The team would go on to win the second leg as well, which made for a promising start but also had some of their competitors plotting against them.
“We knew there was a target on our back a little bit,” says Kastner. “I think we were honestly surprised to hear some of it. It’s a competition and we knew that was probably going to be the case (even) if we weren’t seeing it directly when we were racing. We were surprised a little bit but we have the most respect and absolutely loved our competitors and racing with them.”
Tuesday’s finale had some nail-biting moments for the team. At one point, they accidentally left their backpacks and IDs in a taxicab, which made renting the jet-ski later on a bit of a challenge. Smith’s performance on the personal water craft, which had him negotiating a slalom course and retrieving a zebra swim ring, helped put them back on top. The episode also involved learning complex Highland, shawl and Punjabi dance routines and ended with a 25-word crossword puzzle.
“The finale was so neck-and-neck between every team, it was crazy,” says Kastner. “I don’t think we had a leg like that where everyone was so close and wanted it so bad. Definitely, the dancing: I was worried about that and was stressing a bit. But (Ty) kept it cool and decided we were just going to have fun with it. And when we didn’t grab our backpacks from the cab, I just could not believe we lost our lead for this stupid mistake. It’s ironic it was the backpack that caused us to lose the lead and then the word we needed to finish the crossword and make it first was ‘backpack’”
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The win earned the couple two 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 vehicles, $250,000 and a trip around the world. Smith says he plans to continue public speaking but otherwise take their future “one day at a time.”
They are set to fly to Europe in little over a week. Given the hectic, exhausting experience of Amazing Race Canada, one might think they would want a relaxing trip. But Smith says they will use the European jaunt to “fully get back to what made us successful in the race, which is putting us outside our comfort zone, having conversations with random strangers and just trying to fully embrace that we get to do this right now.”
“We’ve got a lot planned on the itinerary, we’re used to travelling at such a fast pace,” Kastner says. “I guess the good thing is I learned how to be a light packer. I’m not going to be hauling around extra suitcases and all the extra clothes I used to pack.”