Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Winter Wipeout Experience - Part 5

Note: This is part 5 of 6. I'm posting one part a day. The total word count exceeds 31,000 words so it's going to be a long read. If you missed part 1 you can read it by clicking here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here!

I just finished the course and I felt so awful. As I said, I didn't know my time officially but I estimated it being something stupid like 15 minutes or so. All I wanted to do was get out of there. Get out of Argentina? Maybe. Either way I couldn’t get my wish, not yet. A journalist was next to do the course, someone who wrote in a TV magazine of some kind, I can’t remember what one. But she was a journalist, who appeared on a previous series of Total Wipeout, and she had strong connections with Amanda Byram, they were good friends. So she had to do the course next for promotional purposes of the show. She did her course; I don’t know of the time, it might have been around 4 minutes, quicker than me that’s for sure. After that was done we all had to make our way back to the tents for the results. I had to get changed quickly so they could make the announcement. I got hounded a few times because everyone was so anxious. In honesty I didn’t care about the results as I knew I’d failed but I still wanted to hurry up for everyone else’s stake, they were excited and rightfully so. I got dressed quickly and then the announced the results.

In joint first place was Woody, who also crossed the big red balls and Sebastian. Everyone was happy for them, so was I. They ran down the rest of the results and I was prepared for ‘and last place, John’ but I actually came 19th. And did it in 6 minutes 25 seconds. I was happy with the time actually, as I said, I felt like it was around 15 minutes so when I found out it was much better than that I was chuffed, but I also wasn’t happy placing 19th out of 20th. In last place was Sylvia, the ‘mummy’ of the group. Sylvia is lovely, you could tell she was there to have a ball and was just there for the experience. She later told me that she also was there because no one thought she could do anything like this, and she was there to prove them wrong. I thought that was really admirable. She kept telling me that she care that she got last place, because she did the course, and she was advising me in the same way.

Sylvia and Jody. Sylvia was the 'mummy' of the group and was there to prove all her friends and family that she could do something like the course. She was a true inspiration and helped me when I was so upset about my own time.
I really appreciated those sentiments, and tried my best to feel that way, but it was hard. Why? Because I knew that a lot of people would laugh at my terrible performance. Because I expected better of myself. Because I was actually the third youngest, I had youth and energy (in theory) on my side, where as there were a lot of people in their forties there that trounced my side. Because I lost a lot of weight and cycled to and from work to get myself fit and it wasn’t enough. I was just so frustrated and embarrassed. I still am in a certain way. We all went back to the hotel and showered.

That evening we all went out for a meal. Now that it was official that my Winter Wipeout journey was over, at least for the performance part, I didn’t care about my diet anymore. I could eat what I want as long as I could afford it. That night we separated again into two groups and I was with Mark, Natalie, Ben, Woody and Dom. I haven’t mentioned Dom yet; she was the only black person on our show and was awesome. She was incredibly fit, and was a favourite to a lot of us to do well on the show. She was also a singer and could sing well, she’s a very talented lady. She got through to the second round but was then part of an epic double wipeout on The Ski Lift with Sharn.

Natalie, Woody, myself, Ben, Mark and Dom. The six of us went out for a quiet meal after the qualifier.
Thankfully we had Mark with us because if we didn’t we once again would have struggled to order food. I almost got mine right when I ordered. I had steak again (of course) but this time it was served differently. It was served with bacon bits and cheese and a mushroom sauce on the inside. I love bacon, cheese and steak but I really don’t like mushrooms. So I almost got it right, bar the mushrooms. But the mushroom sauce wasn’t too bad and I left the mushrooms on the side. The rest of it was gorgeous. We also had croquets and bread. I’d like to say I loved the food in Argentina, but the one thing they just could not do was do bread. Everywhere I went, was stale bread. Everywhere! No one in Argentina served bread fresh… apart from this place. Finally somewhere that did fresh bread and it was served toasted. Lovely.

We all spoke about favourites to win that evening, naturally Woody was a favourite, as the contestant that beat both the Big Red Balls and came joint first in the qualifier. Woody was just so humble, so pleasant and quiet. He was really respectful of the competition and was just happy to be there. That was a nice evening, and it got me away from the Wipeout course, which is what I wanted.

In terms of injuries, most of us were okay. Jody had a concussion and was really groggy that evening, but she perked up the next day. I managed to twist BOTH my ankles and my left knee, but I could walk okay, a little hobble but nothing serious. But we then found out that night that something was wrong with Lawrence. Lawrence was with the other group of contestants and had been hobbling a little. As the night went on his hobbling was apparently getting worse and his leg was starting to swell. The next morning his entire shin and lower leg went bright peach. He had to withdraw from the competition and get it scanned. He could barely walk the next day. So it was good news for Sharn, who got 13th place as she was now replacing Lawrence into Round 2, the Ski Lift. As I said earlier, Lawrence was then scanned and he had broken his leg in two places. I and a lot of the other contestants looked back at the episode and we think he did it on the log jam, although as I did loads of screenshots of the episodes, it could have been the completion of the second set of snowmen. On the former, the log jam, he buckles under pressure when he lands on the log, but on the latter, the snowmen, when he lands on the next section his leg also buckles under pressure and he falls over. Truth is no one knows for sure when Lawrence broke his leg only that he did. But he took it well and as being only one of two people to have crossed the balls he has his head held high. I’m sure he’d trade that in for a shot at the Ski Lift and £10,000 of course, but he took the bad news very well. He got compensation as well so that’s good in a certain way.

Steph and Lawrence. Steph got trod on the day before we went out. Lawrence, although when this picture was taken he didn't know it yet, broken his leg.
Scottish John went with the other group that night and I went back to the hotel after our meal. He was still out when I got there so I had some time to myself. I thought about how everything went. Everyone to their credit knew I was upset about my performance but reassured me and empathised. I really appreciated their kind words and it was nice of them to talk to me, especially as they all had their own performances to consider, good or bad. But I was just happy I finished the course in the end, I could have given up. At least I knew now that I’d look less embarrassing on TV than if I quit. Scottish John came back to our hotel room probably about half an hour or an hour after me.

The next morning we had to wake up for about 6:15am, which was a lot nicer than the 5:30am we had to leave the previous day. Scottish John used the shower early because he had to prepare for the next day, as he qualified for the second round. He was really good to me, and reassured me about my embarrassing performance. I in turn gave him some kind words for his chances. I had no idea how each person did on the course, apart from their times. Scottish John finished 5th in the qualifier, an amazing effort and told him he had as good a chance of winning as anyone. He was humble and told me that he was keeping his feet grounded. We went downstairs and actually had breakfast that morning, rather than the packed stuff that they provided the previous day. We didn’t have much time though and the bus soon turned up to pick everyone up.

Everything else happened on day four by the way. Day three was the qualifier, now we were on day four, which was Round 2 The Ski Lift, Round 3 Winter Blunderland and Round 4 the Winter Wipeout Zone. It all happened on this day, meaning our three finalists had to do a heck of a lot of work that day. Not for me though, because the one good thing about not qualifying was the fact that I got to watch the rest of the show with my own two eyes! And what an experience that was! Of course I would have preferred to be out there and doing these things, but I was still incredibly privileged to have that opportunity to see these things happen, and that’s why my Winter Wipeout Experience was not over yet.

The Ski Lift cheerleaders: Steph, Jody, myself, Sam, Ben, Lawrence and Sheba. It was fun watching it all happen in person.
We got to the site again and once again there were pastries and drinks set up for everyone in the tents. But the priority now was the 12 competitors left who were about to take part in the Ski Lift. Maisie had earlier told me that her favourite round was the Ski Lift and I’ve got to tell you, it’s mine as well. The Ski Lift was incredible, and it was even better to see live and in person. I’ve been asked how they got the twelve contestants up there. By crane of course! How else! Yeah a large crane carried each contestant individually. I felt sorry for the poor people who had to be put up there first and the person up there twelfth had a minor advantage over everyone. I can’t remember the order, but in honesty, it wasn’t the biggest of advantages anyway, I’m sure it wouldn’t have made much difference if they got twelve cranes to put twelve people up at the same time (it would be an amazing sight mind). You could see what was connecting the twelve parts of the Ski Lift and it didn’t look balanced. From the get go I’d say you had a small task keeping still, but when the thing started moving it looked much much worse.

Amanda came on set and was preparing for her introduction of the Ski Lift. There were seven of us there out of the eight, as Sylvia was incredibly poorly through the night before. So on the seat, watching the action was myself, Ben, Sheba, Sam, Jody, Lawrence and Steph. I just haven’t mentioned Steph in this article yet! Steph was another lady I didn’t really speak as often to but she was pretty cool. The best thing about Steph? Her laugh. When we were watching old episodes of Total Wipeout in the tent the day before she laughed at every wipeout and was in hysterics. She was obviously a huge fan of the type of humour Total Wipeout provides and her laugh was immense. She and Sharn had an epic night out that night and got very drunk. I won’t go further than that though to explaining what they did that night, that’s a long story on its own!

So here we were, the seven of us with the best seats for the Ski Lift. Amanda came up to us and said “alright losers!” in which we responded with a mixture of “yes we’re fine” and “how dare you call us losers!”. While the twelve people on Ski Lift were now the main attraction of the show, it was our job to chant and yell as loud as possible and offer as much support to everyone as we could. We were being filmed by Millie I believe for Round 2 and there were a lot of our reactions filmed on the actual show. They were genuine reactions; we were so excited and entertained by the show put on by the elite 12. I absolutely loved the initial wipeout by Sharn, that in turn took out Dom. It looked incredibly painful and looked so much better live than it did on camera. Dom was not in a good way after that wipeout but she recovered quite quickly I believe.

The Ski Lift. Definitely my favourite part of the show, it's a shame I didn't do well enough to take part.
What you saw on TV and what we saw on the Ski Lift live differed a little. At one point I remember no one getting wiped out for ages, yet they have to speed those things up on TV because they need to fit everything into an hour. I remember Natalie and Scottish John getting hit by the bars over and over again, swinging for their lives for what seemed like forever. Those two had amazing upper body strength I told you. They should have made it through on pure determination but that’s not the way the game works, its hold on as long as you can and if you hold on the longest, you go through. They both got wiped out eventually and I was gutted for Scottish John as he actually was a lot closer to elimination than was made to look. Scottish John, Sebastian and Amy all got knocked out at very similar times but the TV had to speed up and slow down footage to show the order of elimination. We actually weren’t sure who of those three made it through, we just remember seeing 7 turn to 4 in the matter of about 10 seconds. I personally thought Scottish John made it through, but others thought it was Sebastian and some others thought it was Amy. It turned out to be Amy in the end, and she was the only girl to make it through to the next round. I saw Simon still hanging on and gave my congratulations to Sheba, which you could see on the TV which was nice. She was most pleased with her husband’s performance and rightfully so. I was surprised with Sebastian’s wipeout. He was my personal favourite to win the show before Ski Lift took place, I don’t know why, but I thought he had a better chance than John the Policeman the night before. Sebastian had a flawless go on Ski Lift until he got hit once, and once only I believe, and it knocked him down. But kudos where it’s due, Sebastian put a valiant effort in.

Both Natalie and Whiskey in the John hung on for ages and got beat by the pole the most. It's a shame their brave efforts weren't emphasised on the show, they were both awesome.
But the main man in Ski Lift was also the main man in the qualifier, and that was John the Policeman, or Woody as I call him. He was just flawless on the Ski Lift. I heard him earlier in the tent saying that he could do 50 crunches a day or something. I’m telling you, he didn’t lie did he? He didn’t get hit by the bar once. I don’t think it even scraped his bottom! He was then labelled Robocop by some of us. At that point, he was the clear favourite after doing so well on both rounds, although things were to change later on and become less clear cut about our winner. We all congratulated John for winning Ski Lift and congratulated Aarron, Simon, Mark and Amy for also making it to Winter Blunderland. But we all had to go back to the tent then so the 7 people who got eliminated at that stage could have their interviews. I think we went for some lunch after that. I can’t remember what I had to be honest, but it was probably tasty, as most of the food in Argentina was. Time flew by and we had to prepare quickly for the third round, which was Winter Blunderland.

John the Policeman was ridiculous on Ski Lift. I don't think he got hit by the pole once. He was then dubbed Robocop and rightfully so!
I remember Amy being so nervous of being the only girl left. It was here where I connected with Amy best, I consoled her a lot because she was just doing so well and yet lacked confidence and belief she could do it. Amy believed that her lucky egg was the driving force behind her brilliant performances. I didn’t want to detract from that belief, as I wanted her to be as ready as possible for Winter Blunderland. I told her that if she believes it’s her lucky egg than that’s fine, but that I think that she herself was the reason behind her getting to the third round. I told her how awesome it was that she got as far as she did, and that I always support the ladies in Total Wipeout, and that she had my full support in Argentina that day. She really appreciated my words. I also that day became Total Wipeout maestro. Since I got to the audition phase of my experience I started paying a lot more attention to the show, statistically and as a fan. I mentioned things like there was only one double ball crosser in the history of Total Wipeout (although that may change this series… stay tuned… that’s all I’ll say from what I’ve heard) and that in the last series there were a record amount of ball crossers, and record qualifier times. I also told Amy that ladies have won the show before and there’s no reason why she couldn’t. She really appreciated me consoling her but I’m like that with a lot of people. I don’t like people lacking confidence when they are good at something, and Amy really had the knack in our show.

Amy kicked major butt on course, but off it she was so nervous about everything! She didn't need to be as she was so awesome!
As I said, time flew by and soon we were preparing for Winter Blunderland. Joining us six from the previous round was Sylvia who had recovered well enough to see the rest of the show, I’m not sure if Lawrence had made it back from hospital yet though, but Sylvia was there. Also joining us was the seven new ‘losers’, in name, Natalie, Scottish John, Sebastian, Sharn, Dom, Sarah and Chris. I haven’t spoken of Chris; he’s the last person I’ve yet to mention on here. Chris and I didn’t speak too often but he was really cool. He’s the ‘smooth operator’ doctor whom my wife loved, and he was documenting his own experience on his video camera. He’s put the complete mini documentary on our private Facebook group, I don’t know if he’s going to go public with it. If he does I’d like to put it up on this site as Chris did an amazing job with it, and edited it very well.

My wife and I loved how they portrayed Chris as the "Smooth Operator"!
So now our bench was getting full and we were all cramped up on it for Winter Blunderland. Maisie took the camera in this round and she wanted us all in shot which was nice. Our view for Winter Blunderland wasn’t as good as it was for Ski Lift.  We could see the end of the course very well but the beginning was far away. We couldn’t see the turning platform which caught out Amy and Simon a lot in the beginning. But we did see the Crankshaft okay, and the rotating platforms very well. Winter Blunderland wasn’t as fun as the awesome Ski Lift but there was still a lot of drama. As much as I was happy for Simon to have made it that far, he was definitely the weakest link in this section but that for me was probably the only unsurprising event of the round. Simon, kudos to him, gave it as good a go as he could but the younger contestants got the better of him. He was great in defeat though and his interview was awesome. After that, I think everyone expected Amy to lose. As much as I gave her words of wisdom before, I did secretly think she was still the weaker link out of her, Woody, Aarron and Mark. But she put in an amazing and ballsy performance and was absolutely brilliant. As I said, Amy was a true hero in Winter Wipeout and was definitely one of my favourite contestants; I just loved her pure determination on course, and the contrasting emotional breakdowns she was having off course. She was a joy to watch on camera and off camera she was just so sweet and lovely, but lacking confidence the entire time. Her will to succeed combined with the lucky egg story was brilliant and I knew she’d shine on TV when it aired.

Mark was so close to getting to the final. He and Simon put in an excellent display in Winter Blunderland.
I talked about John the Policeman, Woody, and him owning the qualifier and the Ski Lift but it wasn’t the case in Winder Blunderland at all. He really struggled with the course, especially in comparison to Aarron who left everyone in his wake. This was Aarron’s round and he really booked himself to look as strong a contender as possible going into the Winter Wipeout Zone. So Aarron and Amy went through and it was between John and Mark, which was a complete shock to me. I thought Mark and John would get to the final but with Amy’s spirit and willpower driving her through it was one of those two to go through. What they didn’t show on TV was Mark spraining his finger on the ladder. After that he was pretty much finished, he struggled to climb the ladder and when he eventually did, John had finally clawed his way through to the final. As I said, the drama for Winter Blunderland was great, and was the story of the round. It wasn’t as impressive a visual as the Ski Lift, but it still had everyone on the edge of their seats and it was once again great to see live and in person, rather than on camera.

John was awesome in all the other rounds but Aarron here, he dominated Winter Blunderland. He was almost flawless.
After that we all went for dinner. We had dinner, which were steak burgers. I say steak because that’s what it was; a slab of steak a bun. It wasn’t as good as it sounds, it was definitely my least favourite meal in Argentina because the steak was cooked hard and it just didn’t taste as good as normal beef burgers do. But I can’t complain, I didn’t pay for it so I’m appreciative of the food anyway! After that Lawrence definitely received news on his broken leg and joined us. I felt for him, but as I said a few times he took the news really well and got compensation so it hopefully all balanced out in the end. The three finalists, Amy, Aarron and Woody didn’t eat with us. Instead they had to prepare for the Winter Wipeout Zone. They did all the posing and the interviews. I don’t know how that all went down as I wasn’t there.

What most of us did instead was go to Tigre, a town on the Buenos Aires Province, north of the main city. It was definitely a different side to Argentina, and it took us about 40 minutes to get there. That gave me a lot of time to take pictures of the landscape of this foreign land, and take some time out. I really enjoyed Tigre. While Buenos Aires was a large crumbling yet bumbling city, Tigre was quiet, peaceful even, with lots of canals and dry land. We went to what looked like a market, and had the opportunity to spend some cash. As I said earlier, I spent my money quite wisely in Argentina as I don’t have much money, but I also took out money from the ATM to cover more costs. I decided I wanted to get a gift for my wife and daughter. Jody went with me as we were both looking for gifts for loved ones. I decided I’d get my wife an Argentinian purse and one of those mannequin jewellery holders that I personally think look odd. The body of this jewellery holder was made of wood and the lady was wearing a really nice dress, I knew my wife would like it. As for my daughter I got her a bag of sweets, and a pink bedroom chime that was nicely decorated. I was set. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Tigre, about 45 minutes, but it was nice to get away from the main city and the Wipeout site, and see a different side to this amazing country.

Tigre, a different side to Buenos Aires.
We soon travelled back and by that time it was approaching 7pm, and getting dark, which meant one thing only; it was nearly time for the Winter Wipeout Zone. We got back to the site and preparations for the finale were almost set. We didn’t see Amy, Aarron or Woody when we got back, they were being suited up and preparing for the climax. Eventually, the 17 of us made our way to the Winter Wipeout Zone.

The Winter Wipeout Zone. It looked so amazing. Neither this picture, or TV, do it justice.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Winter Wipeout Zone is something else in person. It was absolutely godsmacking to look at in person rather than on TV. It looks good on TV anyway, but as we walked towards it, even from afar, it looked stunning. It was night time of course, and there were fireworks being prepared, flamethrowers going off and on, and waterfalls. It was really tense. It was really really special. I knew there and then, that what we were about to see would stay with us for the rest of our lives. Sure, I wasn’t doing the course, I didn’t even come close. But I truly appreciated what I was about to see. There were 17 of us now so it was really hard for us all to struggle to sit down. I offered Jody my seat but she didn’t want to sit, she wanted to stand up instead.

The 17 'losers'. Kudos to Andy the executive producer, for taking this picture for me.
It was here I spoke to the executive producer Andy a bit more. We didn’t really speak much leading up to this point, he was busy behind the scenes, preparing the show and giving instructions. He’s a really nice man and spoke to me like he knew me my entire life. I don’t know how much studying the researchers and Andy put into the chosen contestants, but he really made me feel like I was special, the way he was speaking to me. I also spoke to Emma a bit more. Emma is the series producer and she was really cool. Both producers put effort to speak to us a bit more towards the finale, probably because the show was close to wrapping up and they had more time to actually speak to the ‘actors’, so to speak. Maisie also filmed the finale. Frankie also joined us for the finale as well. We all loved Frankie, we tried to make her feel like one of us contestants as much as possible, after all, she shipped us from London in the first place and looked after us, mothered us in a way, and she was also going to take us back home as well. She was there from the start and she was there to the end.

Emma, the series producer, our episode journalist, Amanda and the executive producer Andy. Kudos to Amanda for posing for this picture! Thanks to Sharn for letting me use this on my site!
Amy was just about to be flung out for the finale! Not that we knew that yet!

What are my thoughts on the finale? And how did it all end? Come back here tomorrow to find out in the final part of My Winter Wipeout Experience!

If you haven't seen it yet you can see my performance, which was edited by Episode 5 contestant Gemma Murdock below! 

You can read part 6 here!

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