How close was The Amazing Race 19 finish? Not close at all. Ernie Halvorsen and Cindy Chiang were nearly an hour ahead of Jeremy and Sandy, despite the GPS drama that tried to depict the contrary. "There was a little GPS drama, but we knew that we had some time," Cindy tells TVGuide.com. "But you never want to get lost." The engaged couple intend to use their $1 million check to start a foundation to bring awareness to childhood obesity and education. Find out more about their plans, how else they prepared, and what they don't remember saying.
And the Amazing Race winners are...
Congratulations! Did you have a feeling you were first?
Ernie: Thanks! Yeah, we did. ... Once we got to the map, it was pretty clear we were first because there was a set-up time to get on the wall ... and there was a set-up time to dismount. There was no way a team could've done all that by the time we had finished the typewriter and went over there. ... This was the first leg where we had no mistakes. The thing that probably took the longest was the flight simulator. It was challenging because to turn the plane, you don't use the steering wheel; you use the foot pedals. So if you can't quite master that, I can see why Marcus was veering off the runway so much.
Who did you call to find out what The Dump was?
Cindy: Well, in the Panama airport, everyone was sitting in line, and Ernie and I were like, "We'll just walk around and get some information." There was a college student who had his laptop out and he let us look up the Atlanta tourism board. We wrote down a bunch of numbers of hotels and concierges. So as soon as we saw [the clue], we were like, "It must be something historic."... And there was a lot of traffic in Atlanta and [our cabbie] Ben knew that the highways were going to be closed and was like, "Oh, I know the back roads. Don't worry!" I think that saved us a lot of time because Jeremy and Sandy said they were sitting in traffic for an hour.
Are you happy to have broken the Express Pass curse?
Cindy: That's what we hear! Usually the Express Pass winners get third and bad [taxi] luck!
Ernie: Yeah, from Panama where we had Juan and then Ben — we rewarded Ben with a big hefty tip because we were so excited.
You've talked about how you overprepared for the Race, taking language courses and stuff. What else did you do?
Cindy: [Laughs] We did all kinds of things, everything from rock-climbing, kayaking, running along the beach with backpacks. The most challenging was this communication exercise to make sure we could understand each other. Ernie and I sat back to back, and I had instructions for a Lego set and he had the Lego pieces. I had to describe to him how to put together a truck.
Ernie: We had the TV blaring and music blaring [as] distractions. That was stressful!
At least you had a Lego task on the Race.
Cindy: I know! That was so funny! We were like, "Legoland?! I can't believe we prepared with Legos!"
Cindy: Yeah. Andy and Tommy are such great people and they are extreme competitors. We really got to know them and everyone else on the Race, too. I think we were relieved that Andy and Tommy weren't in the final three because we actually had a fighting chance!What was it like when they passed you for first place in Malawi?
Ernie: That was heartbreaking. It seems like we were upset, which we were — at the moment. It was a two-mile run. I had both backpacks and Cindy got into a bike accident earlier that day. You saw later in the bikini challenge that she had bruises on her legs. She gave it her all. At the end of the day, Andy and Tommy are so athletic and it's pretty hard to beat Olympians!Do you regret not U-Turning them either time?
Cindy: No, we don't regret it at all. We didn't want to have to use the U-Turn. But when we got to Copenhagen, we were so beat down emotionally that we decided to use it.Ernie: We needed a pick-me-up. We knew whoever was right behind us was getting it. It didn't matter if it was Bill and Cathi, Andy or Tommy or anybody. We really needed a moral victory. When we got passed in Malawi, it was like our souls were snatched from us!Some fans are finding your comment comparing Jeremy and Sandy, and Marcus and Amani to C students off-putting. Do you want to elaborate on that?
Ernie: What was the exact comment? We were partying a little too hard last night. [Laughs]You said if you lost to them, it would've been like losing to C students because you guys are A+ students.
Cindy: We said that?! Oh my God! How awful! That's so terrible. I can't believe we said that!You have no recollection of that? Ernie, you also said it would've been like losing to your brother.
Ernie: [Laughs] Oh my God! Oh, man. We don't remember that. I mean, it's not meant to be negative in any way. It was just that it seemed like Jeremy and Sandy were squeaking by here and there. They won the Panama leg, which was awesome for them, and Marcus and Amani were the comeback kids. I think it was like, being ahead of the pack, you would feel pretty much ashamed if you lost to someone who came all the way from the back and beat you.Cindy, you've said your parents are very strict. Would they really have been disappointed if you didn't win?
Cindy: [Laughs] I think so! We were all watching together and my dad said, "Yeah, I did [expect you to win]." That was the first thing [my mom] said too. ... Every Monday, I would get an e-mail from my parents or my brother saying, "Why did you do this wrong?" And I'm just like, "Can you just be excited that we're still on the show?"Ernie: They expect so much that it's really stressful on Cindy. A lot of people don't realize how her own family — I'm not speaking about all Asian families — is very competitive.
Cindy: We haven't locked on a name yet. We've been back and forth on a couple, and one of them that we really love is the name of a book. ... We're still in the process of getting the paperwork going, but we're hoping to use this organization to bring awareness to and to fight childhood obesity through education, fitness and nutrition programs. The proceeds would go to sponsoring children's education in developing markets. Something that Americans take for granted is free education. I made a comment in Malawi — "Why aren't all these kids in school?" — and we came back and researched and realized that in Malawi, they had just made school public, and there was this whole influx of students going to school that the schools couldn't handle. So the dropout rate was actually higher than the number of students going to school.Ernie: Our goal on the Race was to start a business together and this is our way we want to give back. ... We'd definitely encourage people to come to our website, http://ernie-cindy.com/, where we're going to put up everything about the organization.How's the wedding planning going?
Cindy: We're getting married on March 10 in Chicago.Are you a bridezilla?
Ernie: [Laughs] Do you think she'd be a bridezilla?You're a little Type A, so yeah.
Cindy: [Laughs] Yeah, I think a lot of people expect me to be a bridezilla. I don't know what I am.Ernie: She's more of a superior logistics coordinator.Cindy: We actually hired a wedding coordinator to help with the logistics because it's a little much for me on a full-time job. I try to stay out of the details and let her do her thing.Ernie: Since the show has been on, it's been kind of on the back burner. I'm actually not working right now. I was put on furlough starting this week, so I'm going to be taking on the reins of wedding planning for a little while until Cindy gets back in the seat.