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Exclusive: Kristi Leskinen and Jen Hudak talk 'The Amazing Race' (Part 1)

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/23/2018 

Kristi Leskinen and Jen Hudak finished The Amazing Race's 30th season in third place during Wednesday night's two-hour finale on CBS. 
The "Retired Professional Skiers and Friends" came close to winning the $1 million grand prize but fell short after they had traveled more than 29,000 miles through nine countries and crossed the finish line in San Francisco, CA.  

Engaged couple and former Big Brother houseguests, Jessica Graf and Cody Nickson walked away champions, while Yale debaters Henry Zhang and Evan Lynyak claimed second place. Behind Kristi and Jen were the IndyCar drivers Alex Rossi and Conor Daly in fourth place.

Because Jen had to take on the final plane task of the Race, which proved to be an extremely difficult challenge, she felt responsible for and guilty about her team's loss; however, Kristi didn't blame Jen at all and called their time together on the Race very "special."

During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Kristi and Jen talked about their The Amazing Race experience. Below is the first half of what they had to say.

Reality TV World: Jen, how long after Jessica and then Henry do you think you finally crossed the finish line?

Jen Hudak: A very long time! (Laughs) My concept of time during that challenge got distorted, but I would say it was probably another hour.

You can actually see this in one of the behind-the-scenes clips, but it wasn't the images that I was hung up on, you actually had to put one of the wings on backwards in order to get the correct combination of images, and I just didn't think that we would have to assemble a plane with wings facing in opposite directions.

So, I was probably overly focused on the form and function of the plane and just should've been focusing on the images more. So, it took a really long time and it was certainly the most frustrating point in the Race for me.

Reality TV World: How prepared for a memory task did you feel? Had you been studying a lot in between legs?

Kristi Leskinen: Oh yeah!

Jen Hudak: We had taken extensive notes. We used my notebook to scribble directions while we were racing and then Kristi did these really thorough recaps after every leg.

We were drawing the greeter at the mat after every leg, so we knew every location of every task of every Pit Stop -- everything we were asked to do during the Race, we had it committed to memory and we were very prepared.

But ultimately, the memory challenge in that last element got a little bit lost in the shuffle just because of the wing. So, it was unfortunate, but the other teams had to deal with the same stuff, and they got it done!

Kristi Leskinen: The clue said that after you properly assemble your plane, the captain would clear your plane for takeoff. And it was those words that had Jen hung up, because that means a properly-assembled plane that can fly, and she never allowed herself to put on the wing facing backwards.

So she had two that faced forward on either side, so she figured it was one of two on that side and one of two on this side. And that's what hung her up whereas I'm not sure Henry noticed... and Jess was just trying stuff.

So at the end of the day, it was Jen's knowledge of a properly-assembled aircraft that kept her going an extra hour. You get asked to assemble a 12-part plane and solve a puzzle, and she was trying to do both, and that was actually impossible.

Reality TV World: It must have been tough for you Kristi as well to watch your friend work under such stress and pressure.

Kristi Leskinen: Yeah, it was really difficult to watch. We had a 20-minute head start when we got to that challenge, and I had all the confidence in the world in Jen. We got all of our parts ahead of the other teams, and we were like, "Okay, we're winning this! This is ours!"

I had all of the confidence in the world in Jen, and I still do today. But unfortunately, I would've looked at the plane the same way, because I have a very mechanical mind. If one of the clues says to "properly assemble a plane," that's the first thing I would have been trying to do.

Reality TV World: Did you girls notice in the finale episode Henry actually assembled his plane correctly first but didn't get it checked? What was your reaction to that?

Kristi Leskinen: Jen was actually off only by one part! Jen got within one part on the first try.

Reality TV World: That's so frustrating.

Jen Hudak: But I had that wing on backwards, so it didn't work! I mean, for Henry, I can't imagine watching that back because I would have to imagine he had no idea that he did that until now.

I think the editing covered it properly, that it actually was earlier than when Jessica finished her plane. But I think that just goes to show the difficulty of that final task and the ambiguity in the images.

There were a few images that were really obvious, like a fortune cookie -- like, yeah, that represents San Francisco. (Laughs) But there were definitely a few that were pretty hard to decipher and could have represented various legs, like more than one leg of the Race. And you had to be really discerning, and you kind of had to go with your first instincts.

So I think that's an example of how challenging the task was. My heart broke for him! I know his pain. I'm sitting here feeling the same pain, so I hope he's doing alright, because they were a really strong team and for young kids, really held their own.

Reality TV World: Kristi, for the Roadblock task in San Francisco when you had to smash up old electronics, you appeared to be in some serious pain. What was happening there?

Kristi Leskinen: Yeah! When I arrived at that challenge, we knew we were in last place, and we knew that the other teams left had men. So I could see that not only are we in last place, but we're behind Cody.

There were a lot of tasks we arrived at where we were like, "Okay, we can make up some time here," but I looked at that and was just like, "Shoot, what am I going to do?!" And so there was frustration before I even began because I realized how difficult it was going to be.

I'm no stranger to a bat, and I was swinging it as hard as I could, and there were several times it just bounced back at me, like a couple of those monitors were so old, they were like hitting a rock. It was like hitting a brick wall and the bat just bounced back.

I actually broke three bats trying to break those TVs open, and so my hands -- like the reverberations through your hands... it was seriously painful.

I think Conor actually hurt his shoulder pretty badly doing that, so it was painful. I was not a fan of the challenge, and yeah, that was seriously difficult. If it wasn't for my history in extreme sports and hurting myself, I think I might not have gotten through that.

Be sure to check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of our exclusive The Amazing Race interview with Kristi and Jen. And click here for our show page to begin reading interviews with more of the Final 4 teams for Season 30.

Kristi Leskinen/Instagram

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