X Games medalist Matt Ladley takes on ‘Amazing Race’
June 26, 2017
Matt Ladley wasn't new to the idea of having fans.
The Steamboat Springs professional snowboarder followed up multiple X Games appearances with a gold medal in 2016, then a silver in 2017, and along the way, he's built a big fanbase.
Things were a little different this spring as he was shown zipping around the world on the CBS reality show, "The Amazing Race."
"I got a ton of messages from people, all sorts of people," Ladley said this week in an interview with Steamboat Today. "They were saying, 'We loved your team,' or they were so bummed, literally crying, when we went out."
In Steamboat, watching Ladley's experience proved especially thrilling for organizers at the Partners in Routt County mentoring organization, who were already planning a fundraiser themed after "The Amazing Race."
Last year was the event's first, and it returned this past weekend as the organization's primary fundraiser. This year, the fundraiser was fully booked and featured 42 two-person teams. It propelled them across 17 different challenges all around Steamboat.
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It had one entirely new element this year: an actual "The Amazing Race" contestant on hand to cheer on competitors. Ladley was there and even designed his own challenge to add into the mix.
"A lot of people who signed up say they've always dreamed of being in the real Amazing Race," said Becky Slamal, community outreach manager for Partners. "They're pretty excited to get to meet Matt, maybe get a photo with him and hear some of his stories."
What a race
Stories, Ladley said, won't be a problem.
He made it to the season's penultimate episode, placing fourth out of the 11 teams that started the race.
It was an experience, he said, that exceeded every expectation.
"It was such a cool experience," said Ladley, who paired up for the race with Redmond Ramos, a stranger before the season started.
Ramos was injured by an IED in Afghanistan in 2011 while serving as a Navy corpsman in the Marines.
Ladley chose Ramos on the first day of the race, and together, the pair completed 11 legs of the race, falling just one short of the show's finale and $1,000,000 prize.
The opportunity arose shortly after Ladley's biggest competitive result — a 2016 X Games victory — but he was reluctant at first.
"They called me a week after X Games and said they were casting," Ladley said. "I don't watch TV, and when I do, I never watch reality TV. My perception of reality TV was the crying and the drama and the getting drunk in a house with people doing nothing, but then I watched the show and realized, 'Hey, this is really cool.'"
He signed on, then plowed through about 15 seasons before his race began filming in June 2016.
Among the chief concerns once he started racing was how it would appear on TV whenever it finally aired.
That all turned out fine. Ladley and Ramos, given the hashtag #TheBoys by the show, came off as competitive but fun-loving.
They had one brush with the villain role early in the season, when they'd been dealt a potentially devastating setback by a rival team. Ramos hollered at that pair. That, Ladley said, was more fun than mean in the moment, and generally, he liked how he and his partner were depicted.
"I kept asking the cameramen if they'd manipulate who you are," he said. "They said they had so much footage, so much going on, that if you're just a nice guy, they can't make you look like anything else. They said we'd be fine. They did a pretty good job."
For Ladley and Ramos, the tour of the globe started in Los Angeles, hit Panama, Brazil, Tanzania, Norway, Italy, Greece, Vietnam and South Korea.
It's an impressive itinerary, but Ladley was hesitant to say he'd actually "visited" any of those countries on this trip. Only the stops in Tanzania and Italy lasted more than one day, each visit including two legs of the race.
Much of their time was spent sweating out rides in taxi cabs, waiting in airports or hustling through the myriad of race-based challenges that awaited throughout each day — everything from rock climbing to fish eating to video game playing.
"You'd have to be an insane person to travel that way," Ladley said. "When you're racing, your focus is tunnel visioned on completing the task. It's not like you're sightseeing. You can catch a glimpse of all the places and get a feel for it, but I plan on traveling a lot more. I want to go back."
Tops on his list to visit again are Vietnam, Norway and Panama.
Final 'Race' days
Ladley and Ramos were consistently among each leg's top finishers. They won two legs, placed third in two more, were second four times and fourth three times, including their fateful stop in Seoul, where they were last and eliminated.
The show depicted one of the main mistakes there as taking a subway from the airport to the first challenge location as opposed to a cab, as the rest of the teams did. That hurt, Ladley said, but what hurt more was a wayward cab driver later in the stage. Their driver took them to the wrong location, turning what should have been a quick 20-minute jaunt into a stressful 90-minute disaster.
"With the subway, we were behind like five or 10 minutes," he said. "Based on how the rest of the race went, we'd have been fine. We still almost came back, and we would have been in there if our drive had been 20 minutes like it was supposed to be.
"It was unfortunate, but it was one of those things you can't control," Ladley added. "A big element is luck, or, at least, avoiding bad luck."
A year after the actual events, he wasn't sweating it.
He said he stays in touch with much of the cast, including a pair of racers from Boulder, Floyd Pierce and Becca Droz, who made up #TeamFun, and Scott Flanary, who, with Brooke Camhi, won the final leg and the cash.
"It's definitely hard," Ladley said. "It was the most exhausting thing I've ever done. But, I'd do it again. They do have all-star seasons every now and then. If they end up doing one, I think we'd have a pretty good shot at it."
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