The Party
The smoky atmosphere failed to disguise the undercurrent of restless excitement in Indochine, The Forbidden City at Clarke Quay on Feb 14. It wasn’t love that was in the Valentine’s Night air, but anticipation for the 400 guests who had gathered in an invitation-only party to witness the early telecast of the final episode of AXN’s Amazing Race Asia Season 2.

Singaporeans, Malaysians and Japanese were among the regional nationalities staring at the television screens. Some had worried faces, while others couldn’t hide their looks of triumph. It wasn’t hard to guess which camp was doing what, because Singapore was losing, despite having home ground advantage.

A Near Fatal Mistake
Collin Low and Adrian Yap, the duo who represented Singapore in the race, forgot to ask the taxi they had hired to wait for them while they retrieved their clue at the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, leaving them stranded and helpless as the other 2 teams sped off for their final task.

Collin, 35, said to UrbanWire, “We didn’t know we’re at the last leg of the race so we didn’t think of winning, but are just focused on completing the task and moving on. We thought that the Filipino team would win because they were ahead.”

Nevertheless, despite their slip-up with the taxi, Collin and Adrian managed to beat 9 other teams to win the Amazing Race Asia Season 2, thanks to Adrian’s love for the world, as demonstrated in the final task.

Singapore’s Saving Grace
The final task required a person from each team to arrange the national flags in the similar sequence to the countries they visited during the race. This was one task unlike previous ones that tested physical strength and mental endurance. This crucial one tested not only their memory and observation skills, but also their general knowledge of various countries and their flags.

Both the Malaysian and Filipino teams struggled to complete the task. Because they couldn’t correctly identify the flags, they experimented with different combinations of flags, sometimes making painfully obvious mistakes, much to the anguish and the great frustration of their partners.

“That’s the Australian flag, you idiot,” Marc Nelson, 31, from the Filipino team, muttered angrily, when his team partner Rovilson Fernandez, 30, pulled out the wrong flag from the pile. Vanessa Chong, 29, from Malaysia, remarked on hindsight, “I actually forgot the Philippines flag, which is so silly because the boys have it on their bags.”

They were left shocked and awed when the Adrian managed to swiftly place the correct flags in sequence easily. “He went in the middle and chucked the flags into the holes, and he was done,” Rovilson remarked in wonderment.

“Adrian was born for this task. He always had this passion for the world, and knows all the national flags by heart,” Collin explained on screen, as the crowd in Indochine exploded into cheers.

That victory instantly catapulted Singapore into the leading position, despite the team arriving more than 20 minutes later than the other 2 teams for the final task.

When they reached the final pit stop at Chinese Gardens, many faces in the room reflected respect. Many said they were moved by the determination displayed by the team that many people considered the dark horse.

Visibly pleased, Sawaka Kawashima, 28, from the Japanese team, told UrbanWire, “I have been rooting for the Singapore team because I feel that they are the underdog. We also bonded because they can speak in Japanese.” Siblings Sawaka and Daichi Kawashima dropped out of the competition in the fifth leg of the competition that saw the teams travelling from New Zealand to Japan to South Korea.

In more ways than this, communication proved to be a vital component in the Singapore’s team success.

Winning Communication Strategy #01: New Media
One of their winning strategies was the use of telecommunication tools, such as the internet.

When the teams had to find the fastest route from Prague to Budapest, Hungary in the ninth leg of the race, the other teams went straight to the train station to enquire for a direct train, while Adrian and Collin went to the internet. As a result, they found a train that transited in Vienna, Austria, that arrived 2 hours earlier than the direct train.

Winning Communication Strategy #02: Sign Language
Both of them also credited Adrian’s hearing disability for helping to strengthen their relationship during the race. “Communication is very important in a relationship. Our friendship is so special because we have to bond through communication that is out of ordinary,” Collin said to UrbanWire.

The pair often conversed in sign language during the race – a strategy that allowed them to discuss issues openly in front of other teams without fear that they would lose the element of surprise. Collin has known sign language for 10 years after picking it up through his church, so their friendship quickly formed when they met in a gym where Collin works at.

In addition, they share a love for the outdoors and triathlons. In fact, they took part in the strenuous Aviva Half Ironman Triathlon competition together, before participating in Amazing Race Asia Season 2.

Winning Communication Strategy #03: Emotional Intelligence
The fact that both of them possess great emotional intelligence also helped them a lot. When they ran into problems during the race, Collins admitted that it can be “frustrating because they can’t communicate fast,” but they resolved problems with each other by talking about their differences.

It is clear that their good nature and ability to handle emotional issues maturely extends beyond the television and to their working partners and friends. “They are my favourite couple!” Ms Priscilla, AXN Asia producer for Amazing Race Asia Season 2, declared to UrbanWire.

“They are the only guys who were consistently nice and I can see that they are very sincere,” she explained, adding that she has a soft spot for Adrian.

A Voice For the Disabled
More importantly, this race had given Adrian and Collin an opportunity to prove that a physical handicap is not necessarily an obstacle. During the end of the episode, Adrian said, to raucous cheers in Indochine, “I will never dwell on my disability again.”

Agreeing, Collin said on stage in Indochine after collecting their prize, “I just want to prove that disability is nothing.”

There were about 400 people of different nationalities, fervently supporting their own countries, at the Amazing Race Asia finale party, but when Collin said that, not a single one of them disagreed.

Images courtesy of AXN Asia