By Victoria Ahearn - The Canadian Press
TORONTO — BodyBreak duo Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod say they have no regrets about the way they played “The Amazing Race Canada,” noting it’s “done a lot to revitalize” their famed fitness brand.
“It’s got our message out to people ... that message of ’keep fit,”’ Johnson said Tuesday in an interview alongside McLeod (both were clad in matching grey BodyBreak track suits with neon green accents).
“And we showed it — ’Keep fit and have fun.’ And I think what we really are most pleased with is that positive attitude ... And I think hopefully we can be an inspiration for young (people) but also a 40-plus, a 50-plus group to never stop.
“Because I’m 57, and if I can do it and you’re 35 and you go, ’Ah, I’m too old, I’m not a kid again’ — well you know, we were beating kids that were more than half our age.”
The perpetually cheery married couple from Oakville, Ont., became the fourth team eliminated from the jetsetting CTV competition series Monday after gruelling challenges in Regina.
Their problems began when they and the other teams had to find two bull moose toys in a six-feet-deep bin filled with lentils. After an exhaustive search that came up empty, Johnson and McLeod decided to copy competitors Brett Burstein and Holly Agostino and quit the challenge, incurring a two-hour penalty.
Johnson said what viewers didn’t see was that they spent three hours working non-stop on the lentil task in 35-degree heat, and only had “a little bit of water.” When they saw Burstein and teary-eyed Agostino abandon the challenge, Johnson and McLeod made a “strategic” decision to do the same, figuring Agostino was too “mentally and emotionally spent” to win.
But after completing their next task at a football field, they were set back again by a U-Turn (a strategy whereby teams can force opponents to face an extra challenge) and were ultimately last at the finish line.
“Overall, we think we played a really good game,” said McLeod, 54, who once represented Canada on the national track and field team.
“We raced hard, we raced smart, we used our experience. Hal with his travel experience, knowing what flights to get, doing things that other teams, some of them would say, ’Oh, it’s sneaky.’ Well, it’s Travel 101 and that’s where our age was a benefit.”
McLeod said their strategy was to be flexible, never give up, and stay calm. And they did just that in some “very difficult situations.”
“Hal, about 10 seconds into the race hurt his hamstring and that just mentally takes you out of the game. ... But overall, we didn’t complain, we didn’t cry and we worked hard.”
They can’t escape reminders of what brought them down on the show, though.
“About a week ago I found a lentil on the rug at the cottage and it was like, ’Where did this come from?’ So we’re still finding lentils,” said McLeod.
“Lentils were stuck all over our body,” added Johnson, a former Team Canada baseball player.
Johnson said they’ve had great feedback from couples who appreciated the positive support they gave each other.
He thinks they were portrayed as being “very vanilla” onscreen, even though Monday’s episode bleeped a word McLeod said and made it seem like she was swearing, which they insist she wasn’t.
“What people didn’t see is that I basically said ’Get off, get off the field,”’ said McLeod.
Johnson said their high profiles made them targets during the race, and as a joke for fans they’re now selling T-shirts with target signs on them on their website.
They also didn’t feel a camaraderie amongst the teams.
“We’re not one big family,” said Johnson. “You’ve got a whole whack of A-type personalities and so that’s going to be a tough family to mix together.”
On Twitter, fellow competitors Vanessa Morgan and Celina Mziray have criticized Johnson for making comments about their looks.
But he insists it was innocuous.
“I was asked a question about something, about their crying and so forth, and I made a comment about their eyelashes and they got very defensive about their eyelashes,” he said. “And I thought, ’Well, if that’s the worst thing anybody ever says about you.’ I thought they cried so much that their eyelashes would fall off.”
McLeod said the eyelash comment stems from their time in Niagara Falls at the beginning of the show, when all the competitors were on a speedboat and Mziray “was having difficulty with her eyelashes.”
“We’re sitting behind going, ’Oooh, well that could be a problem on the race.’ So it was not out of anything being malicious.”
McLeod said they now plan to continue doing what they’ve been doing for the last 25 years, which is to “Get out there, be active, eat as healthy as you can, make as many healthy choices as possible.”
And they’re rooting for friends Jet Black and Dave Schram — who called them after Monday’s episode to send their best wishes — to win the show.
“We want the BodyBreak support to go to Jet and Dave, because they’re the most entertaining, they’re the most supportive of one another and they’re good guys,” said Johnson.