Friday, January 27, 2012

My Winter Wipeout Experience - Part 6

Note: This is the final part. I posted one part a day. The total word count exceeds 31,000 words so it's a long read. If you missed part 1 you can read it by clicking here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here!

Not long after Amy was ready to come out. If our view for Winter Blunderland was bad our view for the Winter Wipeout Zone was even worse. Our best view was of the Icy Stairs. We saw virtually nothing of the Impossible Snowflakes, we saw the back of the machine running but apart from once in a while someone’s head poking above the top we couldn’t see how bad or well they were doing.

The Winter Wipeout Zone. So much cooler in person than on camera.
Amy got shot out of something. I didn’t know what it was while we were in Argentina, but when I started to watch the series of Winter Wipeout I was so annoyed. Why? Because it was “The Human Fling”! The exact same machine that they used on 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow! The awesome exit that inspired me to apply in the first place! To think that if I actually had a chance to get to the finale of Winter Wipeout and go in THAT, I would have been over the moon! So Amy got ‘flinged’ to the water, and she did her stuff. She gave a great effort on the course but fell off the Icy Stairs, Fright-cicles and then the Impossible Snowflakes. But she finished in an excellent 4:34, only five seconds slower than the winner the week before. Amy had conceded defeat though, she felt like she had no chance of winning. I didn’t want to say anything as anything can happen in Total Wipeout, but I couldn’t imagine John and Aarron slipping up enough to get slower times. But I still hoped on her behalf, that she could win.

Amy getting shot out of "The Human Fling"! The same thing that inspired me to apply on Wipeout in the first place!
Next up was Aarron who did a great job. Aarron was pretty much flawless apart from his fall off the Icy Stairs. Those Icy Stairs look absolutely terrifying; I hated the log jam on the qualifier which is a similar machine but those stairs look so much worse. The worst thing about those stairs is the going down, there’s a decent amount of space between the stairs going down and with them jolting it looked so hard, which is ironic, as stairs are usually easier to go down than up on in general. But the Icy Stairs aside Aarron passed the course in an excellent 2:27, over two minutes faster than Amy. He set an amazing time, a time that would have won three of the previous five episodes. Amy unfortunately knew that her luck had run out. Not that I saw it as luck but as a mixture of hard work and willpower. I was so proud of her; she was so awesome on our show and one of my favourite stories to tell in this experience. I loved Amy to bits and the best thing was, she got to do it again in the Champion of Champions edition!

Aarron's brilliant time made it as hard as possible for John to win.
Lastly was John the Policeman, or Woody as I call him. He was definitely the favourite, no disrespect to Aarron, but John was top of the qualifier and top of the Ski Lift. Yes he struggled with Winter Blunderland, which was Aarron’s round, but overall John just seemed like the better performer. Once again I’d like to emphasise we didn’t see what the finalists were being shot out of, but we did see John’s amazing dive. It was absolutely brilliant, although not the best of the series thus far, that honour in my opinion goes to Helen in the first episode (who I’ve got to know a little and seems very nice). But it was still a better dive than I could ever do, and it was fantastic. John, like his Qualifier and Ski Lift, was flawless in the start. He beat the Icy Stairs, something that Aarron struggled with. But John unfortunately got hit by one of the Ice Picks. We couldn’t believe it! With Aarron falling off the Icy Stairs and John falling off the Ice Picks, it was neck and neck. John had to complete the rest of the course flawlessly to win, and he passed the Fright-cicles and then the Impossible Snowflakes with little struggle and pressed the button!

We had no idea who won the show when John finished. It was an amazing final and it was brilliant to see it live.
It was so close. The 17 of us looked at each other in disbelief. We actually, genuinely, didn’t know who won. It was so exciting and so close. It was the closest final of the series so far. We all discussed who we thought won and I think we all were split between Aarron and John. I thought John won but who knew? Eventually they gave the Winter Wipeout trophy to Amanda and she had John and Aarron next to each other. We weren’t informed of the winner beforehand. When the trophy was given to John, we all jumped up and ran towards him in celebration. We were all so happy for him, and we gave Aarron his commiserations as well. As I said Aarron would have won three out of the five previous episodes. And Aarron wanted to get a ring to propose to his girlfriend with the money. I don’t know if he has or not since, but for him to get so close yet so far, was a shame. It’s a shame we all don’t win £10, 000 eh?

Waiting anxiously for the winner to be announced...
I want to divert your attention to something. Something that I really don’t agree with. Probably the only thing Endemol don’t do that I think is truly unfair. I’m exposing them right here and now! The Winter Wipeout trophy? It’s the same one each show! The winner’s don’t get to keep the trophy, and take it home, they have to hand it back! It’s phony! They just pose with it and hand it back and I really don’t think that’s right. Surely it doesn’t cost much to make one for each show? It doesn’t have to be pure silver or gold, it can be steel or another cheap metal can’t it? Awful.

But John Woodfield, John the Policeman, Woody, Robocop or Copper John, whatever we called him, he was a true winner. He was just better than us, on the course. He won three out of four rounds, that’s all the proof you need. And he’s such a nice guy, he wasn’t bragging and it didn’t go to his head. He was the same after he won the show as he was before we started. I was proud I was put on this show to meet him and I’m proud to call him a friend. But I can say that about all the contestants. There was no jealousy, virtually no animosity, but there was sportsmanship in abundance. We all went out to Argentina together as 20 random strangers but we all came home together as friends. We’re planning a reunion as we speak; I hope it’s the first of many. That’s not the end of my tale though!

John won! It's a shame he doesn't get to keep the trophy though, in each episode it's the same one! Blasphemous!
We went back to the tent and the 17 ‘losers’ got there first. About five minutes later the three finalists came in, back in their clothes and out of their wetsuits. We all gave the three of them a round of applause. They were excellent and put on a stellar performance for us and for everyone across the UK. It’s a shame the two runner ups don’t get a cash prize for themselves. I think a £1000 and a £2500 cash prize for runner ups would be good. But then again just to get to go to Argentina with all expenses paid, hotel paid and with spending money, it’s understandable why the top 3 don’t all get prizes. So anyway, we then all took photos of the three finalists posing together. They were so awesome yet humble about the experience. They didn’t really know how to react, being treated like stars. But they were. They were the stars of the show.

The three finalists. They were absolutely incredible. John, Aarron and Amy.
After that all the researchers and producers came in. They rallied us all together and Andy basically thanked us all for coming to Argentina and take part on the course. He said that we were all the stars of the show and that we were one of the best groups they have ever had. I don’t know how sincere he was, I mean, they have had so many groups, but it was still really nice for him to say that. Emma, the series producer, then handed out requests to the three winners, inviting them to go and take part in the Champion of Champions edition which was filmed 11 days later, and handed the three of them a bottle of bubbly each. They thanked us again but we told them we wanted a picture of them all together. They all stood there and posed, and seemed happy that we were giving them credit they more than deserved. Because in honesty, we’re not the stars of the show, they are. They take 20 random Brits over and over again to Argentina, expenses paid, and make us look like wacky stars, and edit our performances on the course to horrendously brilliant music and silly sound effects. I really wanted to thank them in my interviews but I knew my efforts would be in vain if I did. They’d just edit those parts of the interview out because they’re too modest. They treat us, as well as Amanda and Richard like stars but it’s not true. They are the true stars and work harder than anyone else to put on a good show. We just run the course, they spend hours editing it and planning ideas to make it as silly and funny as possible.

Frankie, Millie, Andy, Maisie and Emma, the researchers and producers. Amazing people.
That was the last time I saw most of the researchers. We had to go back on the bus to the hotel. I said my goodbyes to Nick, Millie, Andy, Emma and Maisie. They were really awesome people. I gave Maisie a bit of stick about being a Bluenose Everton supporter again but then we spoke about Liverpool and missing the city. I haven’t lived in Liverpool before but I am a Scouser, I lived and grew up on Merseyside and Chester before moving to Wales at the age of five, developing a Welsh accent. I’ve always wanted to move to Liverpool though and Maisie was telling me she can’t wait to see her family there again after finishing Wipeout. We said our genuine goodbyes and that was it, we were off back to the hotel. The only researcher we would see then on was Frankie, whose job was to get us back to London safely.

Frankie looked after us form the beginning. She was awesome.
We got back to the hotel and most of us had a small and quiet celebration. All three finalists popped their champagne bottles I believe and we toasted them. I had a couple of beers that night but nothing too bad. Most of us were sensible. I say most of us because, as I said earlier in this article, Sharney and Stephanie had other ideas! Not that I’m getting into them! But most of us just relaxed in the restaurant area. Eventually most of us started to leave and get sleep.

I didn’t want to leave. I was knackered, we started the day early at around 6am, and it was around 11pm by then. But I really didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to end. I had so much fun and met 19 amazing new people. I stayed awake for as long as I possibly could. It was pure stubbornness that kept me from going earlier. But eventually, I had to say my goodbyes and go to sleep. At least I was going to see them in the morning and on the way home.

The next morning we had to leave. I can’t remember what the timing was on that my guess is 10am, but it was much later than the early starts for the two previous days that’s for sure. This was day five of six. Days five and six were spent travelling back home. I actually got on Facebook quickly that day. The keyboards in Argentina are different and as my password has special keys in it, I couldn’t find those keys on the pad. I eventually found a way round it, by resetting my password and then activating it through my Yahoo! email account. I sent a quick message to my wife telling her that my phone doesn’t work in Argentina, that I was okay and that I’ll see her the next day. I hadn’t communicated with my wife all my time there as my phone just wouldn’t work. We all eventually perched into the bus to take us to the airport. Frankie counted us up (something she always did) and two people were missing. Who were they? Sharn and Steph of course! I told you they went on a pretty eventful night out the night before and were totally out for the count. They eventually both arrived and we gave them a massive sarcastic round of applause. They told us about their epic night out that lasted until around 7am. As I said, I’m not getting into any details. After that we were off!

Whiskey in the John, John II and John the Policeman - the three John's!
Lawrence had his travel upgraded because of his broken leg. He now had a wheelchair bless him, as well as a scan showing his actual double break. Everyone else including Frankie, were in the normal class. At the airport we all just relaxed, ordered food and took some final pictures. It was horrible really, it seemed like no one wanted it to end, but it had to. The flight back to Madrid was pretty uneventful. I was sitting on my own between two Argentinian ladies so I didn’t really have much to do, or anyone to speak to. It was a very long flight, and the fact that I was in a middle seat on my own made it for a very boring experience. I couldn’t sleep very well and because we left in the afternoon my body clock wasn’t ready for sleep yet it was the right course of action, as we were to land in Madrid at around 6am. It was the most unpleasant flight of the lot in honesty because I just couldn’t settle.

Mark with his sprained hand. Such a top bloke.
We eventually landed in Madrid the next morning, day six of six, and we all looked so tired. We were though; it was the bad timing on the plane and the fact that it was such a long flight in the first place. We got to Madrid and in turned out that our flight to Heathrow was cancelled. We all couldn’t believe it, as it looked like there wasn’t another flight for another few hours. But under some miracle (or not) they had another flight going to Heathrow at exactly the same time. It didn’t make any sense but it seemed inevitable that they screwed up somewhere and this was their making up of that fact. So in the end we were sorted. We still had a few hours to kill before our final flight arrived. Because it was so early there wasn’t any food places open, although there were a few vending machines if you had Euros. We all just relaxed, took some final pictures before boarding on the final plane. On the final plane I sat on my own again but it was on the end of a row and was next to Amy and Ben, and Sarah and Chris. That flight for some reason, I got a little more sleep on it than on the previous plane, despite it being around 2 or 3 hours in comparison to the 13 of the other flight. I think it was pure fatigue kicking in by that point.

20 random strangers met up and became great friends in 6 days. I love these people!
We arrived in Heathrow and after going through customs that was pretty much it. We all had to go our separate ways and it was the last time I saw the amazing 19 people I spent 6 incredible days with. We all hugged and wished each other the best. It was really emotional. I didn’t cry or anything and I don’t think anyone else did either but it was horrible. We also had to say goodbye to Frankie, who was awesome from start to finish as well. As a bunch of random 20 strangers I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people. I couldn’t have had such a blast with anyone else, or at least it felt that way. Kudos have to go to Endemol and more accurately, the researchers who chose the 20 of us to get together and attempt the course and have this amazing journey together. I really didn’t want to say goodbye, but I’m hopeful that it’s not goodbye forever. We’re hopefully reuniting at the end of February and I look forward to that. I miss my Wipeout buddies terribly!

After that we all went our separate way homes. I went to London Euston and got myself a nice Super Bacon and Double Cheeseburger Meal at Burger King. It was glorious. I was really full at that point naturally, and my wife called me. I had spoken to her briefly in Madrid but it was really early there, around 7am if I remember in UK time, a time that my wife is not good at in terms of being awake. It was about 12pm I believe at that point and she couldn’t wait for me to get home. The journey home was nice and quick. I then got home from the station to open arms from my wife and daughter. That was the end of my official Winter Wipeout Experience, although there are other things I can say.

We made a private Facebook group for all the contestants to mingle in. All 20 contestants joined the group, and some people actually were inactive on Facebook, but then reactivated just so we can all keep in contact. Since then we’ve shared pictures and videos, and some of the contestants have since met back up and hung out. Being skint and in Portsmouth means that it’s hard for me to make a trip to London, but as I said, I hope to do so at the end of February for the big reunion.

I remember the excitement about the first episode of Winter Wipeout being on. We, having been through what was to appear on TV was a big deal. It made the experience feel more real, rather than the hazy dreamlike scenarios that are impossible to even contemplating being genuine. They were genuine, and seeing the first episode proved that naturally! I also remember the second episode when we briefly saw clips of our group on TV falling off things in their compilation clips. I was on one of them, as was Simon, Sylvia and Scottish John. Even though you couldn’t see my face, I, and a lot of the contestants knew, that it was definitely me and I couldn’t help but mark out for that. I also remember Episode 5, an episode I was really looking forward to watching as I had recently added Gemma Murdock on Facebook, who did an amazing job at getting 4th place on the episode and also did an excellent job in editing my clip from our show, which you can see on the top right of this page. I hadn’t asked Gemma how well she did and she was brilliant, she performed fantastically well to get as far as she did, and has since then started to blend in with the Episode 6 crew. Gemma is a true fan of the show and we’ve had many discussions reminiscing about our times on our separate shows, as they were similar experiences.

The last 10 days or so before my episode came on I was absolutely frightened. I knew I did badly, getting 19th place and I never told anyone this. The only person that knew how I did was my wife. I told her not to tell anyone about my performance. That decision wasn’t based on embarrassment but surprise; even if I did well and got to Round 3 I wouldn’t have said anything different. I wanted my family not to know how I did, so their reactions were genuine and natural. The same applied to everyone else. At the end of Episode 5 they previewed our episode. At the end of episodes they tend to sometimes show contestants falling off things in the episode to come, and they did that as a preview for our show. When I watched the show my heart skipped a beat when they showed me falling off the log jam in the preview! I couldn’t believe it! The worst thing about it is that it showed me falling onto my back and into the water; I didn’t remember hitting my back at all! But you could definitely tell it was me, and my family saw me on TV, albeit it was for half a second! It was really going to happen!

Me on the preview for our episode, at the end of Episode 5! It really dawned how real it all was when I saw this.
Because I had appeared on TV already I decided that it was time I started officially confirming about my appearance on the show. A lot of people knew already, but we were told not to mention it on Facebook or Twitter, or anything else. So because that was the case, and everyone kept on asking if I got on, how it was and stuff, it became relatively common knowledge. So to avoid mentioning it, I would discretely reference it in obvious ways, so that people would know what I was on about. In person I talked about my experience casually. But a week before, I told everyone officially, that in one week, I’d appear on TV. I told my Facebook friends, my family, a lot of the people on my local street knew, a lot of my work colleagues knew and also all the professionals associated with our service at work knew. Everyone knew I was to appear on TV and I was cracking up! I was so nervous, partly for appearing on TV, and partly because I did so bad and I was to be a national embarrassment on TV!

My caricature drawing as done by the awesome Simon Cassini!
So, it was Saturday, 21st January, 5:35pm BBC1. I watched the show. It was amazing. It was really odd, watching all my new friends appearing on TV. All the other episodes I’d enjoyed as I’m a fan of the show. But this was just weird. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t appeared on Winter Wipeout, but because I knew all 19 of the other people it felt personal. It was my show, our show. I’d never watched a TV show in the same way before. I knew exactly how bad or well everyone had did, and even seen some of the things on TV being done live and in person. But seeing it all done professionally, edited and with music dubbed in, with Richard Hammond’s commentary, it was still weird. I saw everyone do their course, something I never saw in person obviously. But I knew about Woody and Lawrence beating the red balls. I saw that on the TV and it was amazing. I also heard stories like Jody’s concussion being shown on TV, and some of the awesome interviews the other contestants did. I loved what they did with Chris, making him out to be a “smooth operating” doctor, my wife and I laughed so hard! I also loved what they did with Woody, with his beep-off with Amanda, and Mark’s overexcited “Woo! Woah! Woohoo!” noises all around the course. Mark only did it a few times but they edited it in throughout the show and it was absolutely hilarious!

But as for me, John II, I was actually very happy with it. You need to remember, we have no idea what they were going to edit our shows to look like, what things we did or said that would be the outline of our segments on the show. I really thought they’d emphasise on my large size and my amazing lady like giggles, as well as the beard. When I heard the classic “Big Bad John” being played, sung by Jimmy Dean, I knew exactly who was about to appear on screen, and that was me! I liked that they concentrated on my large mass, I was by far the biggest person there and I knew I did a decent job of looking a little badass as an angry giant, and it showed. I loved the posing on the podium, the comparison to Scottish John (now called Whiskey and the John on the show, which was awesome) because we had the same names. I didn’t know they were going to concentrate so much on the Henry VIII comment, and I never thought of it as that odd a reply. But they made it out that it was odd, with Richard Hammond questioning why he was my ‘beardy hero’, as he had six wives and was responsible for many of their deaths. It makes sense why it was an odd response, but I meant that I looked like Henry VIII, not that I was inspired about his actions, but it was still funny!

But it did get them to mention the fact that I was recently wed to my wife, which made my wife giggle with glee. “Richard Hammond knows I married!” she said that a few times I can promise you! I’m glad they said it was also the last time I shaved because that was the point; it was a five month old beard and that was what got me on the show in the first place, and it was important for me that it was said when I last shaved. I do love the fact that they put on “I'm Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits on, whenever I did the course. That was a stroke of genius! I hadn’t heard the song in many a year (where as  a few people have associated “Big Bad John” with me a few times) so it was awesome to hear it again, and played whenever I did the course. Whenever I went into the water they played Tudor music which had my wife in stitches. It was funny, and I have to admit I loved it. The mixture of “here’s John he’s going for it on the course” and the happy “Henry VIII I Am” music contrasted with the “oh dear, John’s in the water” and sad Tudor music. It was really funny, really well done and it got a huge thumbs up from me.

I wasn’t happy they gave me the dreaded “oh let’s get back to him later on” segment! They give those to the really slow contestants and I had a strong feeling they would do it to me. Of course, doing that and then sandwiching Woody between my segments was fine. Woody, or John the Policeman as he was on the show, had the fastest time of the first round so I’m okay with him being between my clips. He was super speedy and did it in less than half my time. I knew they’d show me going the wrong way on the show, which was embarrassing, but it was okay. I am kind of disappointed they didn’t show my Granny’s House as I beat the first door, although I did get hit by “Tevez”, which was what Richard called the dog there. But my embarrassing attempt at the Big Red Balls was a highlight primarily because I stool still on the escalator, but I stood there because I was so tired at that point I wanted a little rest! What I didn’t know about my ‘attempt’ at the Big Red Balls, if you want to call it an attempt is how close my head bounced backwards towards the tip of the escalator, it was really close! I could have gotten really hurt if that happened so thankfully it didn’t. But instead, I had the embarrassment of bouncing backwards in front of the first ball, and having to swim past all four. Thankfully, because that took so long, they skipped to John the Policeman then. When they returned they showed my log jam. I was really happy that I beat the first log, and I had no chance with the second. My little bit of jiggling on the second log was quite funny to watch as well, as you could see, with Amanda laughing at me! Believe it or not I did pose at the end when I clocked in at 6:25, but they didn’t want to show that because they wanted to emphasise on how knackered I was.

As I said, I don’t remember much of my interview with Amanda afterwards but I loved the fact that the only thing they showed was me saying “I wasn’t prepared for that at all”, which made my wife’s day. She loved the fact that I’d say something so obvious and so silly at the end of such a struggled performance. It was funny, I really thought it added to my section of the show but when I said those words in person with Amanda, and the rest of the interview, I was really negative and upset. So there’s two ways of looking at it. But overall, I was really happy with how they portrayed me on TV, I loved the Henry VIII nonsense, and I loved the music even more. Considering how they could have made me looked, I got made to look like someone who really struggled on the course, but was great fun at the same time. Some have said that my part in the show was the best, and I was the most entertaining person on our show. I can’t say that was true, after all, the 19 other people were all brilliant as well and besides, a lot of my friends and family will inevitably say that as they watched the show to see me, so naturally liked my involvement most. But it was nice to see people really enjoyed it.

To wrap up this amazingly long article (Overall it’s over 31,000 words, by far the longest article I have ever produced), My Winter Wipeout Experience will stay with me to the grave. I’m a very lucky guy. People would pay thousands of pounds to do what I did and that is take on the Wipeout course. Only just over 1000 people from Britain have. That’s one in 62,262 people, or 0.0016% of the population. These are ridiculous figures, and I did it! I am very lucky and I’m more than aware of that, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I’m so grateful to Endemol, to the BBC, to the researchers who gave me the opportunity. I’m so appreciative to have been given a chance to travel to the other side of the world for free, with spending cash and hotel paid. I’m so lucky and indebted to be given a chance to do the Wipeout course, and appear on national TV, and appear in front of 4 million people on the telly. I’m really lucky and really amazed that I did it. I also want to thank the 19 contestants on my show for helping me have one of the best times of my life, and for being there for me when I was down and embarrassed after performing miserably on the course, and for helping me have such a laugh on the other side of the world. I want to thank individually Andy Rowe and Emma Taylor, who were awesome producers and did an amazing job with the way they portrayed me on TV, and for being really cool in person in Argentina. I want to thank Maisie, Millie, Nick, Siobhan for being amazing researchers and for helping us all over Buenos Aires and beyond. I want to especially thank Frankie for taking us to and from Argentina, for being our mummy, for counting the 20 of us over and over again and making sure that we will always find our buddies when needed. There are other researchers and people at Endemol Argentina that I haven’t named but played a part in my amazing experience, so thank you all too. I want to thank Amanda for being so lovely in Argentina, for being so humble and supportive, yet laughing at me when I fell ridiculously on course. I want to thank Richard Hammond for not ripping into me as often as he does other contestants! He was surprisingly nice and he is right, walking or running on an escalator is overrated! I want to thank Sophie for giving me some of the great HQ shots took in Argentina, which look absolutely fabulous. Finally, I want to thank anyone else I may have forgotten that played a part, everyone has been awesome and I can’t thank you all enough!

My Winter Wipeout Experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity and will live with me forever. Thanks for reading all about it and I hope you enjoyed both my performance and this incredibly long article! Take care!

Official Winter Wipeout Episode 6 Shot. Thanks for reading!
 If you haven't seen it yet you can see my performance, which was edited by Episode 5 contestant Gemma Murdock below! 

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  1. Bloody Hell John that's a short book. I must have spent at least 2 hours reading it! Good story sunshine, well done. Hugs Nunkle Kev X

  2. 31,000 words! I couldn't believe how much I wrote, but it just flew out that way! I'm glad you enjoyed it. =)

  3. Great story sir. I was just on the US tv show. They gave us $20 for gas money. Nothing else! But had a fun time and now I'll be the laughing stock of all my buddies. Your story reminds me of an unforgetable experience. Thanks.

  4. Aw that's a shame, but the flights and accommodation was paid for right? And the experience was just a once in a lifetime thing. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it! =)