While the long-rumored participation of Survivor: All-Stars winner Amber Brkich and fiance Rob Mariano had already been confirmed by Race executive producer Bertram van Munster, The Amazing Race will also feature another face that may be somewhat familiar to TAR viewers -- that of Ron Young, a 28-year-old former Apache helicopter pilot from Villa Rica, GA who was shot down in Iraq and held as a prisoner of war for 22 days.
Now employed as motivational speaker, Ron will be racing with Kelly Mccorkle, a 26-year-old legislative correspondent (and former Miss South Carolina) from Greenville, SC whom he is currently dating.
Viewers who were disappointed with The Amazing Race 6's extremely model-heavy cast should be happy with the diversity of The Amazing Race 7's teams. While the TAR7 cast certainly has its share of young photogenic competitors, it also doesn't feature a single contestant who lists "model" as their occupation (although the cast does count one "bartender/actor" and the aforementioned former Miss South Carolina among its contestants.)
In an interview with USA Today, van Munster acknowledges that both Rob and Amber and The Amazing Race 5 team comprised of Big Brother 4 runner-up Alison Irwin and her then-boyfriend Donald Patrick were forced upon him by CBS, but says that unlike with Alison and Donny, he didn't balk nearly as much over the Survivor power couple's participation. "Audiences know these people really well. And they wanted to be on the show in a big way," van Munster told the paper, "so we went along and did it."
"Having Rob and Amber in the series stirred up a new kind of emotion" in rival teams," said Race host Phil Keoghan. "This time I was feeling tense watching it, because I could feel the competitiveness of these teams. I'd be threatened too," he added.
And if the earlier comments of The Amazing Race's producers are to be believed, viewers shouldn't expect Rob and Amber's worldwide adventure to sputter to a second episode elimination similar to that of Alison and Donny. "They're a very strong team, very competitive," van Munster told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month. "I'm sure they had intimate discussions we didn't hear, but they're a strong team. They work well together," added Elise Doganieri, van Munster's wife and The Amazing Race's other co-creator.
• Ray Housteau and Deana Shane, a couple who has been "dating on and off." Ray is a 44-year-old stockbroker from Canfield, Ohio. Deana is a 27-year-old who works in marketing and promotions and resides in Youngstown, Ohio.
• Debbie Cloyed and Bianca Smith, lifelong friends. Debbie is a 25-year-old photographer while Bianca is a 26-year-old high school teacher. Both are from Woodbridge, Virginia.
• Lynn Warren and Alex Ali, boyfriends living in West Hollywood, California. Both executive assistants, Lynn is age 30 while Alex is age 22.
• Uchenna Agu and Joyce Agu, a married couple from Houston, Texas. Formerly formerly bankrupt and unemployed due to corporate scandals at Enron and Worldcom, the 40-year-old Uchenna works as an energy broker while the 44-year-old Joyce is a sales manager.
• Ryan Phillips and Chuck Horton, best friends. Ryan is a 31-year-old general contractor from Landrum, SC. Chuck is a 32-year-old who works in sales and resides in Inman, SC.
• Meredith Smith and Gretchen Smith, married grandparents and retirees from Easton, Maryland. The show's all-time oldest team, they serve as this season's sacrificial lambs. Meredith is a 69-year-old retired executive while Gretchen is a 66-year-old retired flight attendant and registered nurse.
• Megan Baker and Heidi Heidel, roommates from Oak Park, California. Megan is a 26-year-old fashion designer while Heidi is a 31-year-old stay at home mom.
• Susan Vaughn and Patrick Vaughn, the show's first-ever mother/son team. Susan, age 54, is the director for judicial affairs at Miami University and resides in Hamilton, Ohio. Patrick is a 26-year-old gay writer who is currently residing in Hollywood, California.
• Brian Smith and Greg Smith, brothers from Santa Monica, California. Brian is a 27-year-old "bartender/actor" (at least he's honest enough to not label himself an "aspiring actor") and Greg is a 24-year-old bouncer.