Once in a while, you know someone in your life who went from ordinary to extra-ordinary.
38-year-old Ivan Evetovics is a University researcher. He is also a freelance instructor at my fitness centre, teaching Parkour every Wednesday at 7:30pm.
Parkour is French for "the art of moving". It is a type of physical activity that involves the participants climbing, landing and jumping over obstacles in the most efficient and graceful manner. In his 1 hour class, Ivan coaches participants to improve agility and react quickly.
We are proud to have him teaching for us because we are the only gym in Kuching where people can learn Parkour in a safe and controlled environment.
But one day, Ivan called in to say he wanted to take a whole month off. According to him, he wanted to return to his home-country of Hungary for a holiday. My Group Exercise Coordinator and I went into panic mode. There's already a shortage of quality instructors in Kuching, and we'd be struggling to fill up the void left in his timeslot.
When Ivan returned after a month, naturally I went to him and asked, "Hey Ivan, how was your holiday?"
He winked and cheekily replied, "It was good... I think you're gonna like it."
"Huh? Whaddya mean I'm gonna like it?"
Fast forward to 24th August 2010.
I was in Singapore to attend the press conference of the original AXN production, The Amazing Race Asia Season 4. As I descended from the lifts of the new Marina Bay Sands hotel, who did I bump into?
Ivan Evetovics and his wife, Tengku Hilda - the first couple from my small town of Kuching, Sarawak to ever compete in the Amazing Race Asia.
It was the most unusual and indescribable feeling.
In Kuching, our relationship is that of an employer and employee. Suddenly, we are seeing each other as blogger and media personality. Instead of me speaking to him about his class, I was sitting down for an interview with him and his wife about their experience in the race of a lifetime.
I spoke to the executive producer Michael McKay, the host Allan Wu and the other contestants in the race. All of them have nothing but good things to say about Ivan and Hilda.
The race was dominated by big media personalities from big cities around Asia
Among them, an ex-strip club manager from the Philippines
Testosterone-filled alpha males from India and the Philippines.
Two dating actors from Hong Kong.
And a model/musician team from Singapore.
Even against such formidable opponents who must have tons of TV experiences before, Ivan and Hilda, who never participated in any reality shows before this, left a big impression on the show.
I sat down for an interview with them.
Kenny: So, physical preparation going into the race?
Hilda: Oh no, not me. I don't have any preparation. I didn't know I was even going to make it into the race. If I knew, I would have gone back to the gym and drop 10 kilos.
Ivan: You know Kenny, for me, I'm always ready mannnn. I was born ready. I do my judo, my jiujitsu, my Parkour and keep in shape.
Kenny: Was it a spur of the moment decision that you guys join?
Hilda: No, we didn't even want to join the race. Our daughter was the biggest reason why we joined. We didn't even know about the auditions until our daughter told us about it. If you had seen in one of our earlier photoshoots, our face was like this. *shows pouty lips*
Ivan: It was Saturday afternoon, and I had jiujitsu training, so I was like, "Yo let's get this thing over and done with, I want to go back to training!"
Hilda: I don't even watch Amazing Race. We were in The Spring and my daughter was like, "Ma! You see there's lots of people talking there? Allan Wu is there!" And I was like, "Who the heck is Allan Wu? Who is Vanessa and Pamela Chong?"
Kenny: What did they ask you to do during the auditions?
Ivan: They asked us to fill out the form and make 2 videos. But we did the live auditions at The Spring, so we just improvise.
Kenny: I think that's what they wanted.
Ivan: I think one of the reasons we were chosen was because we were just ourselves. That's what I would advise would-be participants to do. Don't over-think the questions. Just be yourself.
Kenny: Hilda, do you find yourself overly-reliant on Ivan?
Hilda: Yes... *nods sheepishly*
Ivan: But that's how our relationship is. We don't mind helping each other. There are things she is good at, there are things I am good at. But this race is difficult, so I have to do quite a lot of physical stuff. I enjoy it.
Hilda: I am good at crying!
Kenny: Does any of the jiujitsu or the Parkour help you in any way?
Ivan: Of course, overall physical conditioning is very helpful. Also, in terms of mental preparation - there is so much pressure and you have to keep on going and going. In fact, Parkour is all about minimum effort and maximum efficiency. And that principle fits very well into the race.
Kenny: What would you say to people who want to be a finalist and really want to excel in the Amazing Race?
Ivan: First thing is, don't panic, stay calm and use your mind. In the end, the race is all about making the right decisions. To me, that's the most important thing because everything is all about rushing, rushing, rushing. You make the stupidest mistakes because you are rushing. If you can stay calm that's the key to doing well.
Kenny: Lastly, what do you want to say to the members back at Level Up Fitness?
The Amazing Race Asia screens every Thursday 9pm on AXN, and Episode 1 is also online at http://www.axn-asia.com/tara!