To Canadians following CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada, Sukhi and Jinder Atwal are the sometimes bumbling, but really very clever, brother-sister team now in the top four of the popular reality TV series.
But to Northwest Community College, the newly minted television stars are former students who are proud of their northern roots and the schooling they’ve done here.
Sukhi completed all of her first and second year science courses at Northwest Community College (2000-2002) before transferring to the University of the Fraser Valley where she earned her degree in molecular biology. Jinder did his first semester of sciences at NWCC (2006) and they both say their hometown college experience prepared them for University in unexpected ways.
“It’s such a great experience because your instructors actually care about you,” says Sukhi, adding small class sizes meant more one-on-one instruction. “I remember all the professors were more intense at the community college - you are so prepped by the time you go to university.”
The siblings credit the faculty at Northwest Community College for challenging students, setting high expectations and making sure they are well prepared for the workload once they move on to University courses.
After graduating from university, Sukhi moved to Buffalo, New York to work at a cancer clinic before she and Jinder put their entrepreneurial heads together to start a distribution company that imported health products, beverages and set up distribution centres across south east Asian countries. In short, these are two smart cookies.
And while their friends and family know that there are some serious brains behind the exuberant Terrace team, their portrayal in the series at the beginning often pegged them as the bumbling brother-sister team, constantly seeking the help of others.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of stuff you don’t see,” says Sukhi. “You don’t see us helping the other teams…you don’t see exactly the whole situation.”
But that portrayal doesn’t bother them in the least.
“We’re fine with it, it’s funny I think,” says Jinder.
In fact, it’s been exciting for them to watch their friends and family follow their progress. And with the duo taking the coveted first place in the two most recent episodes, they are in good position going into the last leg of the race.
But they aren’t spoiling the outcome.
Sukhi admits, when the race was over, she wanted to tell her mom how they placed, but didn’t want to ruin it for her.
First generation Canadians, Jinder and Sukhi say they owe a lot of their success to the support of their parents. Their parents immigrated from small villages in northern India to Terrace more than 35 years ago. Watching their children become overnight television stars has been exciting.
“It’s just amazing watching our parents watch the show,” says Jinder. “A while ago, we got to go to the village where our dad was from – it was pretty much nothing…just watching his face when he watches us on TV is amazing, it must be a really surreal thing for him…he starts crying every time.”
The experience of racing all over Canada and overseas, solving clues and completing sometimes daunting challenges has been nothing short of surreal for the siblings.
“I remember talking to Sukhi about it when we were racing,” recalls Jinder. “It was like, this is our life right now, racing around the world. Who gets to do that? Who gets to run around, jump on planes and find clue boxes?”
They dynamic duo say highlights of the race include their stop on Juno Beach in Normandy, France where the sacrifice Canadian soldiers made really hit home.
“New Brunswick totally reminds us of Terrace, just that small time vibe, it felt like we were home,” says Jinder. “The Yukon is just one of the most amazing places you will ever go…it’s one of those places that I just want to go back to.”
There are only a couple more episodes left in CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada – and staff, students and faculty at Northwest Community College are cheering for two very spirited alumni.
The Amazing Race airs tonight at 9 p.m. PST on CTV.