‘The Amazing Race’s’ Arun and Natalia on rowing gone wrong: ‘I just did a big choke job’

Arun and Natalia Kumar had nine lives on “The Amazing Race 33.” They were the last team eliminated when production was suspended in February 2020 because of COVID-19, but when some teams were unable to return for the restart 19 months later, they were back for another shot. After getting saved by not one but two non-elimination legs, the father and daughter made it to the final four, but their luck ran out in the end after falling behind at the rowing Roadblock.

So why couldn’t Arun row, row, row his boat? And how do they think they would’ve done on the final leg? Find out below.

Gold Derby: You guys were the underdogs of the season and you started off the leg well, but it kind of fell apart at the boat. Where was your confidence level after that? You did catch up to Dusty and Ryan at the painting.
Natalia: Yeah, once we got to the painting, we were surprised that Dusty and Ryan were there because we took quite a bit of time at the rowing. I’m a designer, so painting, this was the perfect challenge for me. We were excited because it seemed like they were struggling. But once they got it, it was, like, OK, Ryan is a god with navigation. We still had a little bit of hope, but once we got to the columns, we knew we were last.

Arun: You never know if something could happen. Somebody could get lost. You always had the hope because we’ve had quite a few lives on the race. [Laughs] But once we got to the columns, we saw the three cars there, so at that moment we knew.

Gold Derby: And no more non-elimination legs.
Natalia: Exactly! [Laughs] Maybe there’s four teams going into the final! No, we knew.

Gold Derby: Do you know how far behind you were?
Natalia: We heard from the other teams that we were pretty close to Ryan and Dusty. We don’t know the exact time, but Kim and Penn said we had arrived shortly after them.

SEE ‘The Amazing Race’ winners Kim and Penn explain how she knew the final task would be a visual memory challenge

Gold Derby: Arun, you had a lot of trouble rowing. What was the issue there?
Arun: [Laughs] That’s the question everyone’s been asking. I’ve never rowed or kayaked before. For some reason, I was trying to move forward and was going backwards. Whatever I was doing, it was not working. I just did a big choke job on the biggest moment of my life. I don’t even know how to explain it. I was stuck there for a long time.

Natalia: Yeah, I just saw him going in circles. The funny thing is, when we read the clue and saw the boats, he said, “I got this!” He was very confident going into it. We knew there’d be two Roadblocks and we didn’t know if the next one was going to be singing and dancing, so we knew this one wasn’t singing and dancing.

Arun: I knew it’d be physical, so I said I’ll do it because I’m not doing any singing and dancing. Now we realize she should’ve done it.

Natalia: But also with his vision and the columns, I think we would’ve made the same decision.

Gold Derby: Have you rowed?
Natalia: At Michigan, I have gone rowing, so I do have more experience than him, but it seemed like everyone struggled a little bit because it’s so wide and just getting the oars in.

Gold Derby: Do you know how long you were there? You also had the wrong name the first time?
Arun: I was trying to get back and get the Vasco de Gama, which I knew, but Ryan came in and took it. I was yelling, “Ryan, that’s my boat!” [Laughs]

Natalia: My mom’s family is from a part of India, Goa, that’s of Portuguese descent, so he had heard of Vasco de Gama a lot. It was just funny that right as you were trying to get it, Ryan comes in.

Arun: I should’ve just jumped into the water and swum to the boat. We we there for probably 45 minutes to an hour.

SEE ‘The Amazing Race’s’ Raquel and Cayla reveal what they ‘literally lost sleep over’ after the final leg

Gold Derby: Is that legal? Was there any rule preventing you from jumping into the water and swimming to a boat?
Arun: It didn’t say anything that you couldn’t jump in!

Gold Derby: Natalia, how difficult was it for you to watch that while everyone left?
Natalia: Yeah, it was hard because we had gotten there third and I didn’t know what the challenge is. They read the clue to see what the challenge was while we were away, so I didn’t know what he was doing. I just saw him going back and forth and in circles. I was like, “Is he trying to see the back of the boat?” I was just confused. It was a struggle to watch him struggling.

Arun: That was the first Roadblock I struggled with because all the other five Roadblocks, I had always overtaken one or two teams. I had always made up time. That was the first Roadblock where I choked. Good job, Arun. [Laughs]

Natalia: You killed the rest!

Arun: We honestly thought we could pass Dusty and Ryan [at the painting] when we saw them there.

Natalia: It took a lot of time to get the details right and by the time they noticed the doorknob — and we heard them, so that’s why I was like, “Do we have to paint our doorknob?” But we didn’t have to because theirs was in the middle of the door.

Gold Derby: You guys were eliminated before the shutdown. What was it like to get that call to come back? 
Arun: We were not getting ready to go back on the race. Other teams had personal trainers, they had 19 months to prepare. We got called four or five weeks before. I work in the restaurant industry, so during COVID time, I was so understaffed, so literally I had no time to train. I would work from 6 in the morning to 6 in the night and come home and try to work out for an hour or so. But we wanted the opportunity to come back on the race. We didn’t care about what the others had done. We were really excited. I still remember yelling “Yay!”

Natalia: He was on the phone with me when they were telling us and he literally blew out my eardrum when we found out. [Laughs] We felt our journey wasn’t complete after that leg in Scotland. We felt like we had defeated ourselves by switching Detours, so we were really grateful to have the opportunity to come back.

SEE ‘The Amazing Race’s’ Dusty: ‘Elevators, rocks and cheese will haunt me forever’

Gold Derby: Obviously you knew who won, but you finally saw how it played out. What are your thoughts?
Natalia: We were so excited. We’re superfans, Kim and Penn are superfan, and they ran a perfect race. Every leg they were killing it. They were detail-oriented. We thought they raced really well.

Arun: But at the same time, Raquel and Cayla were so close. They were leading throughout the leg. I really felt bad for them because we didn’t realize how close it was. We had heard the stories. … It seemed like a very, very close race.

Gold Derby: How do you think you would’ve done on the final leg?
Natalia: It’s funny because we were starting to prepare for the final challenge, trying to guess what it was. I thought it was going to be a math equation because there were so many numbers. … We took really detailed notes, so I think we would’ve been find. But, like with the gold coin, there were certain things where you didn’t have a chance to pay that close attention to. When they all found the gold coin, they ran out. So we might’ve gotten tripped on that.

Arun: The breaking the piñata, I would’ve done it. I like to break things. [Laughs]

Natalia: We had a Speed Bump that wasn’t aired when we came back in Leg 4. It was similar.

Arun: I was in a big cabbage ball and she was outside and had to direct me. We did really good in that challenge. I think we would’ve done pretty good in the final challenges.

Gold Derby: Yeah, it’s usually the navigation that’s tripped you up.
Arun: Yeah! We did pretty well in the challenges and Roadblocks.

Natalia: We were proud that in the second to last leg we didn’t get lost. [Laughs] We were excited that we didn’t get lost.

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