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Local ski champ pushing the limits on 'The Amazing Race'

| Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, 12:27 a.m.

A Western Pennsylvania skiing champion is emerging as a serious contender for the $1 million grand prize on the 30th season of CBS' "The Amazing Race."

Kristi Leskinen of Hopwood, Fayette County, and her partner Jen Hudak of Utah, placed in the top three of contestant pairs in each segment of a double, two-hour episode called " Gotta Put Your Sole Into It" on Wednesday. The show started with contestants wrapping up their last adventure in Tangier, Morocco, where Leskinen and Hudak were the third pair to depart for Saint-Tropez, France. Yet, the skiers arrived first at the site of the initial challenge: steering a small, wind-powered dinghy through choppy coastal waters of the French Riviera. There, Leskinen and other racers grabbed race clues from giant red buoys.

"You do become addicted to the adrenaline," says Leskinen, 36, who is a retired freestyle skier who won a bronze medal in the Winter X Games IX.

Early in the first half of the long episode, Leskinen and Hudak held first place.

After the sailing challenge, contestants chose between two Detour challenges: making perfect baguette bread or making sandals. The skiers, who call themselves #TeamExtreme, chose the latter, and were the first to complete this Detour. Then, they hit a snag in an unexpected Head-to-Head competition, with a rolling ball game similar to bocce.

Leskinen and Hudak didn't win the ball game, which was frustrating because they arrived at the site first. But they came in second for this leg of the race.

"We just got over it because those are the rules of the game, and we are ready for whatever 'The Amazing Race' throws at us," Leskinen told the cameras.

In the second half of the episode, contestants drove to Les Baux, France, where one team member would construct a wooden catapult while the other had his or her head stuck in a guillotine. In another odd challenge in this segment, Leskinen and Hudak ran through a bullfighting arena, seeking and retrieving red, white and blue ribbons from bull statues.

Leskinen and Hudak finished in second place in the second half, and graciously congratulated first-place winners Lucas Bocanegra and Brittany Austin. Bocanegra then proposed to Austin on TV, and she said yes.

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