Interview: Amy & Maya discuss their ‘Amazing Race’ win

In the interest of time, I skipped out on the “Amazing Race” exit interview circuit, a decision I often regretted. I'd have loved to ask Lisa & Michelle about shoving and hypocrisy, or talk to Shelley & Nici about how their existing relationship hurt them out there or to discuss whether Kym & Alli felt annoyed at a surfing task being their demise.

I was more than happy, though, to rejoin the circuit to talk to the “Amazing Race” finale, especially when the victors turned out to be Food Scientists Amy & Maya, a pair I grew to really root for during the Race. 

No, Maya & Amy weren't the strongest team. In fact, they made it to the end without winning any of the first 11 Legs and only a “Keep on Racing…” Leg in Manila kept them around. But even if they seemed physically unlikely — especially with a prior injury forcing Amy to limp her way around the world — their enthusiasm never waned. They snuck through to the end on spirit and grit and then with a million bucks hinging on a final cumulative Roadblock, Amy capitalized on the most intellectually-driven challenge of the entire season to carry the pair to victory.

That excitable energy carried over into their exit interview, which touched on Amy & Maya's never-give-up moxie, their unlikely survival in the penultimate episode and the malady Amy was fighting for 12 Legs.

Click through for the full Q&A with the Season 25 winners of “The Amazing Race”… 

Maya Warren: What's going on Dan!

HitFix: How are you guys doing this morning?

Maya Warren: Awesome Dan. We just won a million dollars.

HitFix: I imagine that would make the week better just right there.

Amy DeJong: The rest of the week, for sure.

Maya Warren: Pretty much. 

HitFix: Okay. So you guys are fans of the show, where would you guys rank yourselves among the most unlikely “Amazing Race” winners ever?

Maya Warren: In terms of unlikely according to like everyone else? We thought we were very likely. But according to everyone else probably like number one, maybe number two after the Beekmans Boys.

Amy DeJong: But the thing is that we always knew we could do it. So we're scientists, right? We do a lot of work in the lab but we don't think that that made us poor Race competitors, we thought we did a good job; directions were our issue. We always were strong in the challenges and we knew if we could just get to the final challenge at the same time as everyone else, we would pull out ahead. In the whole Race we never once doubted ourselves. We knew we had it in us.

HitFix: Okay, so if I had told you in the fifth or sixth leg when you guys were finishing next-to-last that you guys would eventually win you would have told me, “Okay that sounds right”?

Maya Warren: Yeah. Definitely. Even before leaving I told my family I said, “We're going to win this. We're going to win it.” I just had some kind of feeling inside me that said, “We're going to win,” so never once throughout the race did we doubt. And when Phil, on Leg 11, when Phil says, “There's four teams going onto the final Leg,” I knew at that point no doubt in my mind that we were going to win “The Amazing Race.” No doubt. No doubt at all. It's anyone's game. And because every Leg is so different, it's literally anyone's game. And it's really not about how strong you are physically, it's a lot of mental strength and how you are able to actually do under pressure and how you're able to run the Race and not run the Race even when the Race is going. If that makes any sense.

Amy DeJong: I mean not every moment is a crucial moment. Yu need to take the time to relax a little bit when you can, like especially all the downtime at airports, waiting for ferries. There's a lot of downtime, so you need to know when to take a step back and relax and when you need to really power through.

HitFix: OK, both of you guys sort of talk me through the emotional roller coaster of reaching Phil at that Manila Pit Stop and what you assumed was going to be your elimination.

Amy DeJong: It was tough. So in that last cab ride to the Pit Stop, I was shot. Like I was super dehydrated. I had just crashed a bike into the side of a van. I was feeling the pain from this injury that I have been suffering the entire Race. Like my body was shot, but I still was pushing through, persevering. Never once in that challenge was I like, “I can't do this.” I knew I had to power through and do my best. So knowing that we were going in that physical condition, knowing that we were going in last was really tough. And finding out that we were still in it, I think I was just in shock. Like your emotions are all over the place in the span of about two minutes.

Maya Warren: And standing on the sideline and waiting for Amy to finish the Roadblock and seeing all the other teams go, there's one clip where Jim and Misti got their clue and they ran off and I'm plugging my ears because I don't want to hear that they're going for the Pit Stop because I always in myself had a sense of hope. And we're running, we just wanted to finished strong. We ran for the mat. We did everything we could and when Phil told us that we were still racing, I literally flipped out. Literally, I mean as you can see. I was ecstatic. I was literally overjoyed. I just felt so incredibly blessed and at that moment I knew it was ours to win.

HitFix: Amy, talk to me a bit about your physical condition at that moment. Like how well do you actually even remember any of that? And was there sort of a rehydration process between the Pit Stop and getting to the airport?

Amy DeJong: Yeah. I mean I drank a lot of water. I think the dehydration wasn't nearly as bad as like physically how I was feeling otherwise. So when I came home from the Race I actually found out that I had stress fractures in my pelvis. So I was like running on kind of like a fractured pelvis the entire time. And I think that was hurting me more than the dehydration at that point. I mean when you're in that much pain, you're running on adrenaline really.

HitFix: You mentioned that there was an injury that came before the Race but then sort of was there that injury and then you were exacerbating it during the Race? What was happening there?

Amy DeJong: Yeah, I just got worse and worse as the race progressed. But we didn't want to give up; we didn't want to dread on it too much. You just have to deal with your situation and do the best you can.

Maya Warren: And although it happened that before the Race, the med staff and security team were very great. I mean they gave her pain meds like three pain meds a day kind of thing to make sure that she was okay. So the med team was awesome.

HitFix: And Maya, what did that mean for you as you were thinking about what your responsibilities were given that your partner was well under 100 percent?

Maya Warren: For me it was, “Let's keep motivated; let's not dwell on it.” In life and on the Race you're given what you have. “These are the cards that were dealt so let's deal with it the best that we can.” And I think that we did that. I mean we stayed positive the whole time. I never got down on Amy, never thought that she couldn't do it, it was just about making sure that she knew she could do it and continuing on. And for me it's just life. You can look at that as a life lesson. Things happen in life, it doesn't mean that you can't succeed just because a wrench is thrown in it. So it was really important to stay positive and stay upbeat. And I'm just a super kind of energetic positive person in general and I am probably too high of energy sometimes, but it just sort of came natural. It wasn't forced; it was just who I am. And I've been a team player for many sports teams and many other things I'm involved in so it really just came as a second nature.

Amy DeJong: And I think that's why we always were very good at persevering. We work well together. And so we had that following us through the Race.

HitFix: Amy, would we discover that you have a very different personality if you're not out there running around a race with a broken pelvis? What would we see different in you under normal circumstances from what we saw over this?

Amy DeJong: Normally I'm a little bit more high-energy than I am on the Race, but I feel I'm a very-laid back person. I'm a very laid-back person. So you would have seen that too. I think I have a very dry sense of humor. You'll note it on the last Leg, I'm the only one who made the comments we're given a manila envelope from Manila. I still think it's hilarious. I'm still laughing about it. But I also really appreciate the way Maya reacts to things and I think that's why we were such a good team is that Maya is quick to react and gets really, really excited about things, I'm still just as excited, I just express it differently.

Maya Warren: And one thing about the difference between us is if you notice on the Race, if you can look at Amy, she's thinking, she's thinking. I'm sort of in-the-moment and just really, really expressing, whereas Amy is like thinking about it the next step all the time and I'm just really like relaxed just want to have fun, enjoy the jeepney ride.  She's sort of like thinking about it a little bit more and so that's another reason I think why we're able to run the Race so well. Some people may not say we raced that well but we think that we did a pretty darn awesome job.

Amy DeJong: Yeah, we're really proud of the Race we ran. We kept our integrity intact. We didn't cause drama with other teams; we did it ourselves.

Maya Warren: No, we did cause drama with other teams, but not intentionally.

HitFix: Were you guys surprised by the reaction from the other teams when you got to the Manila airport?

Maya Warren: Definitely not surprised at all. We knew that the teams would not necessarily be happy, we didn't know that they called us “low-hanging fruit” and all that stuff, but we definitely were not surprised. We knew that we were competition. It was not our fault that they never saw us as a big competition. Like Brooke's reaction, from the Wrestlers, we love Brooke to death, but she didn't like us as competition, but she never really admitted to that until that last leg when she was like, “If there's an intellectual challenge they're probably going to win.” And it is what it is. They were not happy at all, but to me the strongest racers would of just said, “Okay let's just go out and beat them. It doesn't matter. We're still in it to win it.”

Amy DeJong: I expected the exact reaction we got from Brooke. I mean she's very, very competitive. It is what it is, but at the end of the day everybody has to run their own Race. And it was anyone's to win. We all were on the same flight, so at the end of the day they got very lost in LA. They thought they would have been third if it weren't for us. So I don't know, you got focus and you got to stay true to who you are and do the best on your challenges. If it was anyone's game to win, it was anyone's game to lose.

HitFix: We've had a seasons of “Amazing Race” that haven't had that sort of cumulative memory challenge at the end. How excited were you guys when you saw that there was an a cumulative challenges this season?

Amy DeJong: We were excited about it. As a Race fan, the whole time you're kind of trying to figure out like what is that challenge going to be. So it's kind of a big moment to make it to a final “Amazing Race” Memory Challenge. So there was that. But also the way the challenge was set up, it was a lot more mental I think than some of them have been in the past. I mean you're trying to keep track of a location, a number associated with that location, while still looking for more of the city names on those containers. And then you have to reorder them in your head without writing anything down other then the exact order of the numbers. So it's a lot of the numbers and associations to juggle in your head at once and I think that's something that definitely played to our strength. So we were excited for the challenge like that at the end.

Maya Warren: When we got to that challenge I knew we had it in the bag. We are the only people on the Race that are still in school that use our minds in that way on a pretty much daily basis. So it was actually to our advantage to have a challenge like that. When we were not there I was excited. I never doubted Amy for a moment that she wouldn't pull it off. So it was ours to win, literally. And a lot of teams knew that if it came down to a memory or intellectual challenge that we would have it in the bag and we did.

HitFix: That was my reaction when I saw what the challenge was. I'm like, “Okay well I know who has the advantage in this suddenly…”

Amy DeJong: Right. That's what's good about the Race is every challenge is different, every team has different strengths and weaknesses and it's about how you can do the challenges that maybe are not playing to your strengths and how you capitalize on when there are challenges that do play to your strengths.

HitFix: Talk to me about the passage of time in that challenge. How long were you actually out there in the crates, Amy? And what did it feel like to you Maya waiting for her?

Amy DeJong: We we're at the crates for like an hour, an hour and a half. And for me I think I was just so focused on keeping track of everything in my head that time really did go by quickly. I wasn't thinking about time; I wasn't thinking about where Misti and Bethany where at the time, I was just trying to stay focused, not forget any of the cities that I already seen, keep looking for the other ones. So I think I was just so focused that you don't even realize time passing.

Maya Warren: And waiting sitting on the side with Jim and Adam and waiting for Amy to finish, I was actually really relaxed because I literally knew, like I don't know how to describe this to you, but I literally knew that we were going to win. I was never flustered; I was never like, “Would she hurry up?” or anything like that. It was just about enjoying the moment. I probably will never be on “Amazing Race” again unless they do a winner season… Which they should! But I don't know if we're ever going to do “The Amazing Race” again, but if you see how we ran the Race, it was about enjoying the moment. So enjoy the moment of being in the Final Three. At that point we knew that we were in the Final Three, knew that Brooke and Rob are not going to make it there. So it was about enjoying the moment and just encouraging Amy when I saw her and just having fun with it. Like never get down. I mean we're on “The Amazing Race,” it's not life, it's “The Amazing Race;” let's enjoying it. And so that's definitely how I felt at that moment. And then when Amy came around the corner I was just like, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” I was pretty cautious about like not over reacting because I didn't want to like rub it in Jim and Adam's face, although like Jim probably would have rubbed it in our faces. But I just wanted to enjoy our ride. Like in the beginning we have a clip that says, “We want to enjoy our ride and take it in stride, and that's what we did.” We enjoy “The Amazing Race” and it just happened to come out in our favor.

HitFix: What did you guys sort of get from the reactions of your fellow competitors as you had that last run to Phil? What was the energy of that moment like for you guys?

Amy DeJong: It was insane. I mean people seemed really happy for us. When we were talking to everybody at the mat, the other teams waiting, they were really glad to see us coming around the corner. Brooke and Rob I think wetr a little bit different because they had just been eliminated, but for those teams that had been out for a little bit they were glad to see a strong all-female team win. I mean we're not bimbos, we didn't trick our way through the race, we didn't rely on other people. We really ran our race; we were there based from we had done to get ourselves there and so they were happy for us. We were nice to other teams…

Maya Warren: If you see like when we're running up there, like Tim has his mouth covered, Kym is like jumping up and down, Dennis has his hands in the air, I mean everyone is just super-happy for us. It was great. It was a great feeling. And everyone was super-supportive of us winning and it was awesome. And a lot of teams actually said, and this is Bethany's words, she said, “If it's not us I hope that The Scientists win.” Everyone was genuinely really happy for us.

HitFix: And just as a last question, could each of you give me a favorite moment from this experience that we didn't get to see on TV?

Maya Warren: So, favorite moment that we didn't get to see on TV would probably be just all the time we have with the cast when we're not being filmed. We were able to just kind of sit back and relax and get to know each other and sort of just enjoy getting to know new people that end up becoming friends for a lifetime. I really enjoyed a lot of that, as well as the behind-the-scenes of “The Amazing Race” is so intriguing. There's so much like physics and like other science that goes into it and engineering that I don't know, I love it, love it, love it. So some favorite moments and memories would definitely be those two things.

Amy DeJong: Yeah. And I would agree. I think one of my favorite moments was after Leg 3 in the Shetland Islands we got to all camp on St. Ninian's Isle together. All the remaining teams we would pitch tents, we sat around a campfire, we just laughed hysterically about all of the crazy things that we had already done at that point and really got to know each other and just do something so different. It was a little bit cold, but it was gorgeous. I think that was one of my favorite moments that you don't really get to see. Just the camping with the other teams on the beach. And I would agree that behind-the-scenes is insane. I have so much respect for all the people who work on the Race. It really is a tough show to produce and they do a fantastic job with it.

This season's “Survivor” exit interviews.