If you watch the Amazing Race Canada, in amongst the drama, the international challenges, and the heart-pounding races, you’ll see a father/daughter team doing Burnaby proud.
Simi and Ope Fagbongbe have always been big fans of the Amazing Race Canada, even before competing. After years of putting themselves in the shoes of past contestants, they decided to try their luck.
“We saw the casting call two days before it closed,” says Simi. “We put together our three minute video, submitted it the day of, and somehow got selected.”
“It was totally unbelievable,” says Ope. “It wasn’t something we were expecting. Obviously we wanted to be on it, but the chances were very slim.”
Once they knew they’d be setting out on a world-wide journey, preparation became the next step. Simi took to running and weight training, as well as practicing on a standard car transmission. Ope continued his usual gym routine- three days a week- but chose a particular tool to get his mind in shape.
“To stay mentally sharp I do a lot of Sudoku puzzles,” he says. “I’m pushing into the Extreme puzzles.”
“He’s getting old,” jokes Simi.
“Anything to help me to stay sharp,” Ope says with a laugh.
Simi says that while many of the challenges are athletic in nature, much of their preparation involved ensuring when it came time to act, that they their minds were in the right place.
“At the end of the day we all know it’s going to by physical, but it’s also about being focused,” she says. “Can you channel that energy into what you want to do? There was a lot of that, getting that mental clarity so I can find my focus.”
The show is currently airing, though the competition has already concluded. While they can’t speak to the outcome of the season, they were more than happy to talk about the lessons and challenges encountered in the first few episodes.
The very first challenge involved filming a segment as a sports caster at TSN in Toronto. If participants mispronounced a name, or looked into the wrong camera during the recording, they had to start again. Ope says while he fears he would have flubbed the challenge, he is very proud of how Simi performed.
“She just owned the challenge,” he says. “She was the best new anchor.”
Simi, however, says her performance was nothing compared to what her father had to overcome. Since Ope did not take part in the newscaster portion of the competition, he had to change into a wetsuit, hop in the water; something he is deathly afraid of.
Crawling across a suspended cargo net, before plunging 30 feet into the water, Ope stepped up for his team.
“He took swimming lessons before the race, of course, but he’d never swam without a life jacket,” says Simi. “I really thought this was it, that we would be done before we even started, but he overcame all that stuff, fell into the water, and swam to the marker.”
Following the triumph of the first day, Ope and Simi each saw the ability the other had to overcome their personal fears and anxieties, something Ope has been teaching his children for years.
“What I try to instill in my children is, you need to confront those things in your life,” he says. “You have to view them as challenges, not as obstacles.You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
Ope says what gave him the strength to confront his fear of water was how Simi performed during her portion of the challenge.
“She set a pretty good example with the first challenge, and I didn’t want it be on her to carry the team,” he says. “I had to walk the walk.”
As far as competitors go, Simi and Ope see their family ties as the strongest part of their team.
“I’ve known him all my life. He’s my father,” says Simi. “We like to think we have that relationship where we know how the other person operates. No matter what happens, no matter what the challenges bring, no matter how we both do, we still have that love for each other. No matter what I do, if I messed up, my dad is still going to be there.”
You can see Simi and Ope on the Amazing Race Canada, airing on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CTV.