David and Connor O’Leary have a chance to win “The Amazing Race” in Sunday’s 24th-season finale of the CBS reality competition show. And if they do, they’ll achieve a number of records.
First parent-child team to win. Oldest contestant (Dave, 59) to win. Tied for youngest contestant (Connor, 22) to win (with the exception of the “Family Edition” in Season 8). First Utahns to win. First Mormons to win.
And undoubtedly the No. 1 “Amazing Race” comeback story. Not only are father and son cancer survivors, but in Season 22 — after finishing third, second, first and first in the first four legs — the O’Learys were forced to drop out of the race when Dave suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, and it was “devastating,” according to Dave. “I felt like I’d let Connor down.”
Connor said he never felt that way. His only concern in returning to the “Race” a year later was that his father might suffer another injury and that he “definitely felt more protective” the second time around.
But the O’Learys have run one of the more successful races in “Amazing Race” history. To date in Season 24, they’ve finished first in five of 12 legs (including the last three in a row); they’ve never finished lower than fourth in a leg; the closest they’ve come to elimination is when they finished fourth out of six in the eighth leg.
If you’re unfamiliar with “Amazing Race,” two-person teams race from country to country, performing various tasks, overcoming various challenges and trying to be first to the mat at the end of each leg. Those who reach the mat last can be (and eventually are) eliminated.
And the team that wins the 12th and final leg of the race takes home $1 million.
Whatever happens, the O’Learys will not go home empty-handed. For winning five legs of the race, they received a trip to Budapest, $5,000 each, a pair of 2015 Ford Mustangs, a trip to St. Croix and a trip to Fiji.
But what has made them fan favorites is that they’re generally upbeat, support one another and genuinely appear to be enjoying themselves on what can be an enormously stressful competition that often has teammates screaming at one another.
“We kind of went into it with the idea that we’re going to have fun,” Dave said. “If you stay in it for two legs, you have fun.
“You still get to be dirty, cold and hungry. Or dirty, hot and hungry. Plenty of hungry and plenty of dirty,” he added with a laugh. “But fun.”
Of the three teams remaining in the race, the O’Learys are probably the favorites. They’ve won those five legs; country singers Caroline Cutbirth and Jennifer Wayne have won zero and are arguably still there only because of help from other teams.
And, while Brendon and Rachel Villegas have won three legs, they’re the Team You Love to Hate. Rachel, in particular, has been singularly unlikable.
But the O’Learys insist the best part of “The Amazing Race” is the chance to travel around the world with each other.
“After the first season, where I ruptured my Achilles, we never thought we’d see ‘The Amazing Race’ again,” Dave said on the most recent episode of the show. “So I feel grateful to be in a position to, hopefully, win.”
“Winning the race and winning with my dad would be amazing,” Connor added. “He would be the oldest person to win ‘The Amazing Race.’ ”
Dave said that would be “significant.”
“But the reason I want to win ‘The Amazing Race’ is not for me. It’s for Connor.”
P The season finale of “The Amazing Race: All Stars” airs tonight at 7 on CBS/Ch. 2.