'Amazing Race' Exit Interview: Connor and Jonathan
An extreme racing challenge knocks out the singing Ivy Leaguers
By Diane Vadino Oct 18, 2010 12:35PM
The team description of "Ivy League a capella singers" had us prepared for the worst, but "Amazing Race" contestants Connor Diemand-Yauman and Jonathan Schwartz turned out to be engaging, ambitious racers, until an extreme sledding challenge completely undid them. We spoke to the Princeton graduates about losing the race on the same day as their graduation (in absentia), the problems with sledding, and where they're headed next (hint: Broadway, and South Korea).
That was a terrible, first-to-worst finish. Were you freaking out during that entire leg?
Connor: We were never freaking out. We were certainly discouraged once we found out that the other teams got the earlier flight. Once we landed in Sweden, we held on to our lead within our group—until the sledding challenge, and then it fell apart.
What went so wrong there?
Jonathan: I found the sled incredibly difficult. I don't do extreme ... anything, and you're encountering this new thing where you have hand brakes, but you have to lean forward to use them—you're leaning so far forward that it's like your head's going to topple over. The people at the slopes were saying it was the fastest course they'd had in months. And there were giant rocks and even mini-cliffs—the course itself was getting more slippery, and the netting itself [along the track] was not very protective. It not only didn't stop us from falling of the course, but the sleds got caught in the netting. I took ten seconds every time just to untangle everything, every time.
Connor: The netting made the course more dangerous and demeaning.
Connor: Not only would the net not stop Jonathan, he'd be caught in it. It was not a very good barrier for anyone. In addition to the ice melting and the other teams smoothing out the ice [making the track faster], every one in the second group had a lot more time pressure. We were all very stressed and conscious that one of us was going to be going home. I think that added to the dangerousness of the course.
Connor, you didn't seem to have as much trouble with the course. Are you an experienced extreme sledder?
Connor: I've skied since I was pretty young. I had a pretty good feel for the sled, but Jonathan's right—the brakes were really wonky. You'd lean forward to brake, and it wouldn't catch and when it finally did, you'd fly forward.
Was that the most difficult challenge you encountered?
Jonathan: It was very difficult, and painful. I was limping for about four days afterward. I remember thinking that I didn't know how I could have raced the next leg because I was in so much pain.
Connor: Jonathan did his best, and I did my best. We know each other so well—we never fought once on the race or got frustrated with one another because we both know the other person was trying their hardest. When Jonathan was falling every five seconds, I knew screaming at him or getting upset wouldn't have done anything. I knew he was doing his best—not just to win the leg but so he wouldn't let me down.
You handled the loss with a lot of dignity. Singing your graduation march on the way up to the mat was a great moment.
Connor: It was a really cool moment because we knew right around the time we were walking up to the mat, our friends [at Princeton] were walking down the aisle. The synchronicity of that was really cool. We knew it was the end of two really cool experiences for us. It was the coolest capstone to both experiences—we were surrounded by these beautiful mountains, I was with my best friend. And Phil was there, too.
Obviously, you're no longer Princeton undergraduates. What are you both up to now?
Jonathan: I'm rehearsing for the Broadway show "Spider-Man: The Musical."
Connor: And I'm moving to South Korea in a few days to work on children's educational media.
When I first heard you guys were the "Ivy League a capella singers"—I was really prepared for you to be fairly annoying. But you weren't!
Connor: We were worried from the beginning we'd be portrayed as two snooty Ivy League kids, so we were focused on being ourselves, playing the game fairly and being kind and considerate to the others. We were hoping throughout the process we'd be portrayed as we truly are, and I think we were, for the most part.
It's quite an accomplishment, to survive that label.
Jonathan: I think it's also an accomplishment in terms of the race, and expanding the niches of what we expect from the cast. We're funny guys, who sing a lot, who go to an Ivy League school—there's so many different niches, it's really hard to just come up with one label for that.
Even the singing came out really well, especially as you were eliminated. Was that your favorite moment on the race?
Jonathan: I love the ending, that cool going-out moment with Phil on the mat.
Connor: That was my favorite, too.