Friday, April 23, 2010

Amazing Competitors

TWO years ago, I got the chance to contribute two articles to Silver Lining, a Singapore-based lifestyle magazine that specifically caters to the 45-64 “Silver Age” market as their editorial team so emphatically refers to it.

Last November, I already posted one of the articles I wrote for this publication on the netbook phenomenon. Now that the latest auditions for the much anticipated new season of that acclaimed AXN reality competition show, The Amazing Race Asia has recently concluded, I thought it was the right time to post something I wrote about two of its previous participants.

This 2008 piece is actually the fourth feature story I have written on certain Amazing Race competitors since its first season. My first piece on The Amazing Race was the one on its Season 7 winners, Joyce and Uchenna, who I interviewed on the phone following their victory. I also profiled  TARA 2's Vanessa Chong as well as the celebrated team of Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez, who won the most pit stops that same season.

Silver Age amazing racers Henry Chan and Ida Nerina prove that it’s never too late to go for gold.

IT was supposed to be the toughest race ever. The challenges among others included consuming large bowls of assorted fried bugs, frogs and scorpions; completely clean a dirty 22-seat passenger bus; fill a bucket full of water at the top of a mountain to a monk’s satisfaction; perform a bungee job from the top of Macau Tower; wash and clean a stinky live elephant; and move 10, yes 10, camels into their holding pen.

Those of us who are merely watching the top-rated reality competition series, AXN-Asia’s The Amazing Race Asia are convinced that such challenges are certainly not for everyone, much less for those who are already in their Silver Age. Well, Henry Chan and Ida Nerina, both in their swinging 40’s thought otherwise. Forming one half of two Malaysian teams, both Henry, a chef by profession and Ida, an actress slash producer slash director signed up for the show's third season and ultimately surprised both viewers and their younger competition alike with their very impressive showing in the race.

Breaking the age barrier

“Age has never been and will never be a factor that holds me back,” Henry declares during an exclusive interview with this writer for Silver Lining. “For as long as I am healthy, I see myself being able to do anything I put my mind to.”

Ida agrees. “Uh, what's wrong with my age?” she protests half-jokingly in the same interview. “I mean, quite honestly, I’m in this industry that is so unforgiving about age that truth be known, I didn't even think of it. I saw it as a race and I want to race. That seems to be the only thing that I can imagine would prompt someone to fill out those lengthy application forms.”

With teammates who are also pushing 40 (Henry teamed up with sister Bernie, a well-known TV host in Malaysia while Ida’s partner and best friend, Tania, is a property developer there), both were not at all deterred by the physically and mentally tough nature of the race that took them on a grueling 11-week tour in Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, India and Oman. And they came prepared.

Ready to rumble

“Toughest race ever, they say? My teammate Bernie and I thought, ‘Bring it on’!” says Henry, who admitted to already being physically prepared even before joining The Amazing Race Asia 3. “I am a reasonably fit person anyway. I eat well and I exercise a lot. Prior to the race, I just upped the amount of cardio work I did at the gym. As for mental preparation, there wasn’t any at all. What you saw was us running on pure adrenaline!”

“I've been practicing yoga for the last seven years so I guess that helps,” Ida reveals. “It keeps you centered, you know.  Mentally, I suppose Tania and I had agreed to just appreciate the fact that we're in the race and experience every emotion of the trials and tribulations that come with it, the pain or the pleasure. As for regimen, I just picked up my cardio and strength training after the audition just in case we were selected.”

Henry’s team was very competitive throughout the race, especially during the early stages. They were in fact considered by their rivals as the team to beat after winning two Pit Stops and placing second or third on three other occasions. They eventually got eliminated in Week 9, placing fifth overall. Ida’s team did better, lasting all the way to the final leg of the race before eventually settling for third place on what has turned out to be a rollercoaster ride punctuated by two Pit Stop victories and two last place finishes in, fortunately for them, non-elimination rounds.

Looking back, both Henry and Ida now marvel at how their participation in their favorite TV show has changed their dispositions in life.

An experience to remember

The Amazing Race Asia was one of the most powerful experiences I have had in my life,” Henry beams. “Watching it now is like re-living a dream I once had.”

“It may not have changed my life per se, but it's probably one of the most fun yet best experiences for my self-esteem as in ‘I did it!’,” Ida adds. “The Amazing Race Asia is probably the only reality TV show that I truly follow. I actually forget that it is a reality TV show. I was a couch potato criticizing what when how and I am now one of 60 racers of this great show and I think we did very well if you’re going to say that age is a factor.”

These days, both Henry and Ida are back to their usual routines. Henry says he will resume his food consultancy business while also currently writing and developing food and travel shows for Malaysian TV. Opening a restaurant in New York is also part of his future plans. Ida, on the other hand, has a few acting projects in the pipeline for next year.

With no signs of slowing down, the two are both one in saying that age should not dictate how you should live your life and it should never be a hindrance in the pursuit of one’s dreams.

“When you start living life worrying about so-called ‘age-related concerns’ you will naturally start making this a reality,” Henry points out. “My advice: 1) never think of yourself as old or middle aged but rather experienced and well lived; 2) have a go and try to do anything and everything that you’ve always wanted to do and 3) if anyone tells you you're too old or implies that you have to behave a certain way because of your age, tell them to shove off because you don't buy it!”

The effervescent Ida has a more tongue-in-cheek way of putting it: “You know what? We'll all get old and wrinkly but truth is, it's probably other people's perceptions of age that will age you.  So let your hair down and if you don't have much hair, well, get extensions!”

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