Exclusive: 'The Amazing Race' winners Dana Borriello and Matt Steffanina talk (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/16/2016
The Amazing Race crowned "Engaged Couple" Dana Borriello and Matt Steffanina the champions of Season 28 during Friday night's finale broadcast on CBS.
Dana and Matt arrived at the final Pit Stop in Los Angeles, CA, in first place, therefore winning the $1 million grand prize. They raced through 18 cities and 10 countries, traveling more than 27,000 miles.
"Mother and Son" Sheri LaBrant and Cole LaBrant, who were the underdogs all season long, finished in second place. On their heels were "Best Friends" Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl in third place.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, Dana and Matt talked about their The Amazing Race experience and victory. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: Any idea how much time elapsed from when you arrived at the finish line to when Sheri and Cole did, and then Tyler and Korey after them?
Matt Steffanina: Yeah, it was about 30 minutes between us and Sheri and Cole. It felt like three days, but we heard it was about 30 minutes. And then about another 15 minutes after that, Tyler and Korey came.
Reality TV World: I know you guys believed in yourselves and definitely thought you were capable of winning the Race, but did your victory surprise you at all, especially considering Tyler and Korey had won so many legs beforehand?
Dana Borriello: Yeah, I was a little surprised! I mean, it's really tough. We won that first leg and then we went so many legs without having a win and without being able to beat Tyler and Korey. So we knew it was definitely going to be -- that we were going to need to run a pretty perfect leg. So, I think we were both a little surprised by it. It was just such a big dream come true for us that we were in shock.
Reality TV World: The show made it look like you guys got a little lost looking for the finish line. Did it take you a while to find host Keoghan on the mat or was it just the editing? Maybe they wanted the race to seem closer than it really was?
Matt Steffanina: I mean, that was a little bit of editing. We definitely were confused and having trouble finding it, but it was probably only about five minutes, maybe 10 at most, of running around looking for it. Where we actually lost more time was looking for our taxi after we let our taxi go.
That appeared a little quicker, I felt like on the show, but in real life, it was probably at least 20 minutes, maybe even more of running around trying to catch a new cab. So, that's really where we made our biggest mistake in the final leg.
Reality TV World: Were you freaking out in that moment thinking, "This is going to be our million-dollar mistake?" We saw a little bit of that unfold on TV.
Dana Borriello: I mean, for me, I know everyone is calling it a mistake, but it's kind of hard to say because when we got on that boat, we were pretty sure that we were going to have to take the boat to another boat or to another location and then not need a car anymore. So if that turned out to be the case, and we kept the cab, THAT would've been a huge mistake.
Because then we would have had to take the boat all the way back, pay the cab and release it -- and then take the boat all the way back out. So, we were kind of operating feeling like we wouldn't need cars anymore, that we were going to be using a boat.
So, you know, it was, I guess, a mistake in hindsight -- because that didn't turn out to be the case -- but we also released a taxi that wasn't that quick. And the taxi that we got turned out to be extremely fast and a guy that really knew the area and had a better working phone. So I think it actually turned out well that we got rid of that first cab.
Matt Steffanina: Yeah, and taxis the whole season had been our weakness. (Laughs) We just had the worst luck with taxis, so it really came at a good time in the final leg for us to get our best taxi of the whole season.
Reality TV World: Dana, it looked like you flew through the final Roadblock task when you had to deal with the barrels and hashtags. How long did it take you? Did it really go as smoothly as it appeared?
Dana Borriello: Yeah, it did go that smoothly. I think I probably did it in what, like, 15 minutes?
Matt Steffanina: Yeah. I would say 20 tops.
Dana Borriello: I just needed to physically put those tops on the barrels. I struggled a little bit with some of the higher ones, but I had a pretty good system down. I separated everything and then just kind of threw it up, and yeah, I did it really quick.
Reality TV World: It seemed like the Final 3 teams all knew the hashtags in your clues would be part of the final Roadblock task. Did you ever discuss that possibility with them since you were all friendly, or did you keep it to yourselves in the hope no one else would pick up on it?
Dana Borriello: We kept it to ourselves for a long time, but every once in a while, someone would slip and kind of say it out loud. So we were conscious of the fact that the other teams already were probably onto it the same way. But no one ever outright discussed it or discussed the hashtags to make sure we all had the same ones or anything like that. But we were kind of aware, I think.
Matt Steffanina: I think all the teams were hoping that they had an advantage because they had figured out that that was what the final challenge could be, (laughs) but we all were pretty much on top of taking notes and thinking ahead. Everyone was really well studied on the Race, so it just kind of evened out and we all knew that the hashtags would be there.
Dana Borriello: I do know that the other teams though did make mistakes in that final challenge.
Matt Steffanina: Yeah.
Dana Borriello: I know that they had a couple of errors and maybe had to do it one or two different times before they could get through. So, that's a piece of information that we got afterwards.
Reality TV World: Matt, you nailed the skyscraper Roadblock task in one attempt when the other teams had to do it two or three times. How long did one attempt take? Because it seemed like Sheri and Cole and Tyler and Korey had little hope of recovering after that task.
Matt Steffanina: Yeah, that task, I would say it took at least 10 minutes, maybe as much as 15. Because it took a couple of minutes to lower down, and then you had to go all the way back up the elevator, come around the building, get re-harnessed, and do a safety check all over again. So, it was a good amount of time.
And they only showed a couple, but I think Sheri had maybe one more attempt and Tyler as well. So we ended up with a good, I'd say, 30 minute lead right after that first challenge, which was huge. Because the final leg, it turned out that all the teams were so strong, there really weren't too many places to pass. We were able to keep that lead pretty much the rest of the leg.
Reality TV World: You talked a little bit about preparing for the final task being some type of memory test. Tell me a little bit about the notes you took and when you found time to study. What was your strategy? If you assumed the hashtags would be a part of the final Roadblock, how much else did you consider necessary to review?
Dana Borriello: We assumed the hashtags would be a part of the final Roadblock, but we've also seen other seasons where there have been multiple different recall tasks, like sometimes you have to do multiple challenges that involve memory. So to be safe, we just copied every single clue from top to bottom before we would turn them in at the Pit Stop.
I would usually copy them and then Matt, once we got back to our hotel, he'd copy my notes into his notebook. And then we would just kind of talk about them and re-talk through the leg and study a little bit while we were in sequester waiting for the next leg.
Matt Steffanina: Some of the other things we discussed were flags for each country, we always made note of the language, the currency, usual the greeter -- whoever greets us at the mat. We tried to take really consistent notes just based on things we've seen in past seasons.
Reality TV World: Phil admitted at the finish line he thought you two were going to self-destruct at some point because you bickered so much. I know, looking back, the overcoming all those little fights made you stronger. But was there ever a time during the Race you thought, "This dynamic just isn't working and we need to get along in order to win?"
Dana Borriello: I don't really think that we, actually I think it's kind of funny because we had an interview in Chamonix and someone asked Matt if we would stop bickering, and we were both like, "No way! We're never going to stop bickering."
It's kind of part of the way we interact. I do think at certain points I got a little too intense and that's something I'm working on, but I think that's just part of our dynamic. We're both really strong and we're both kind of aggressive.
Matt Steffanina: Yeah, we had a really good talk when we survived Dubai and got to Bali just about refocusing on the task and working a little bit better as a team. I think in the last four legs, we were really able to pull it together and work a lot cleaner through the leg.
Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of Dana and Matt's exclusive The Amazing Race interview.