|Aly Dudek and Steve Langton, take a selfie during the fourth leg of "The Amazing Race" in Thailand.
Olympic short track speedskater Aly Dudek and her boyfriend, bobsledder Steve Langton, 32, were not on “The Amazing Race” for the million-dollar prize. The couple was looking instead for that elusive first-place finish. The athletes — who have been dating since meeting at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games — both hold bronze medals in their sports and were determined to come out on top.
The Team USA athletes did end one of the legs in first place, but were ultimately eliminated in Africa, finishing sixth.
The 24-year-old speedskater talked to TeamUSA.org about Season 26 — which continues airing through May 15 — about visiting the site of the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games, why she threw away her clothes and which couples from the show the couple still talks to.
How did your fellow competitors on the show react when they heard you and Steve are Olympians?
Fortunately and unfortunately, they were very impressed when they found out — which is great — but we also had targets on our backs from day one. Right away people kind of had it out for us, I guess.
Do you think you had an advantage as Olympians who travel a lot for a living?
As Olympians we are used to travel, and we are used to foreign barriers and language barriers. We know how to get around pretty well, but with “The Amazing Race,” there is nothing that can prepare you for that kind of hectic environment. So we did have an advantage by being well traveled already, however, we didn’t know it right away, but a lot of the other teams were well traveled as well.
You had a challenge in the second leg of the race where Steve had to push you around a speedskating oval in a chair. Tell us about being inside the skating venue from the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
We kind of lucked out because the only clues we got were two words: share or chair. Honestly, we had no further information than that. And just by chance, we decided to go with chair — thinking it would be a building challenge. And Steve is really good at building things. But little did we know, it was the perfect combination of my sport and Steve’s sport.
Did any of the other competitors think you had an unfair advantage with that one?
Nobody said anything. We honestly could have chosen either challenge. Production told us that they were saying to themselves, “I hope they pick chair. I hope they pick chair.” We later found out that they actually map everything out and create the challenges before they even pick the cast. So it was just chance, honestly. It was fantastic. I mean, I loved it.
Why does Nagano have a special meaning to you?
Nagano is very close to my heart because I was watching the 1998 Nagano Olympics when I fell in love with the sport of speedskating. Watching those Games I remember K.C. Boutiette — he’s a long track speedskater from Wisconsin — and I was just completely inspired by him and fascinated by the sport of speedskating. That’s what sparked my interest in the sport. And that’s how my career got started.
This wasn’t your first time in Nagano, was it?
No, I had been to Nagano a few years prior to “The Amazing Race.” I was there with my short track team for a world cup competition, but it was incredible to be back. I was a little bit familiar with the city, just because it’s not huge and things looked familiar to me. It was fun going back. I love Japan — I’ve been multiple times.
How was it being there with Steve?
Steve had never been to Japan before. To be there with him was really special because being in a city where the Olympics were held; that’s really special for the both of us.
|Aly Dudek and Steve Langton, take a selfie during the eighth leg of "The Amazing Race" in Namibia.
How has it been to watch your journey on TV?
It is so much fun to watch the season with my family, and be able to experience what we experienced with them. It’s like a glorified home movie, almost. This was all new to Steve and I as well, because we weren’t able to see any of the footage once it was done filming.
Did you bring back any fun souvenirs?
No [laughing]. We did not really have any time or money to shop for souvenirs. We are given a certain amount of money each leg, and if there is any left over we get to keep it for rollover for the next leg. But at the end of the competition they take it all from you. There were a couple legs where we were really tight on money, and Steve would say, “Oh, I want to buy a pretzel,” and I was like, “No! We can’t afford a pretzel!”
Not to mention, we also wanted to keep our bags as light as possible. In fact, we threw out clothing along the way. We came back with fewer things than we started with.
It looked like you at least got to take photos.
It appears that we are given a phone, but actually, they disabled everything on the phone but the camera. Because they were promoting it as a selfie season, they gave us a phone for selfies — and selfies only. So we weren’t able to go online with it, no WiFi, no GPS, no cell service, camera only.
Plus, they go through our bags to make sure we don’t have any phones or money or anything stashed away anywhere. We are completely stripped of anything but our clothing and sent on our way.
You and Steve did come away with new cars, thanks to a first place finish on one of the legs. Do you have them yet?
No. We’ll get the cars once the entire season has finished airing.
Being able to drive stick shift certainly seemed to trip a lot of teams up. Any chance you’ll get a manual car?
No way! That is added stress for everyday driving that is not needed. I know how to drive stick shift — I just hate it! Steve is much better at it than I am because he’s had more experience. Whenever he goes to Germany to train for bobsled, the team is there for months at a time so they’ll rent cars and drive themselves around. With skating we don’t do that.
Have you and Steve kept in touch with any of the teams?
Actually, we keep in touch with everybody. We all have a mass group text on WhatsApp going on. And people talk in it pretty much every day. With some of the teams we’ve actually become really close, like Matt and Ashley, for example. That was the team we clicked with instantly and we talk with them on a regular basis.
There was a lot of fighting amongst some of the other couples, but not with you two until the very end. Can we assume you and Steve are still together?
Yes. Right now we’re living in Milwaukee together but we’re planning on moving in June. But to where is a little bit up in the air. We’re exploring our options.