Team SuperFighters prepares for the unexpected

Danny Trudeau, Heather Flebbe, Sean Martin, Michael Nicholoaides and Cary Flebbe (left to right) stand at Kaia FIT as they prepare for the 400-mile Eco Challenge in Fiji. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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Nearly a year after The Signal first met with Team SuperFighters as they prepared for a more-than-400-mile adventure race across Fiji, the team’s journey is set to get its television debut on Amazon Prime’s “World’s Toughest Race” this week.

The show, a reboot of “Eco Challenge,” an adventure race TV show that first aired on Discovery Channel in 1995, features 66 teams trekking 417 miles across the islands of Fiji. 

Team SuperFighters consists of four racers and a support crew teammate, including local residents Heather and Cary Flebbe, Sean Martin, Danny Trudeau and Michaels Nicholaides.

When headed to compete, though the team knew what to expect, it didn’t come close to what they’d imagined, Heather Flebbe recounted. 

“That’s something about adventure racing is you don’t really know what to expect,” Flebbe said. “Things can go in any order; they can throw things at you you’re not prepared for. So we prepared as much as we could. We thought we were really, really prepared, which I think in a lot of ways we were, but everything was so much more than we expected.” 

After spending two weeks traveling across the islands by means of rock climbing, canoeing, jungle trekking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and more to complete the race, their limits were pushed to the extreme.

Sean Martin of Team SuperFighters competes in the 2019 Eco-Challenge adventure race in Fiji on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Courtesy of Tara Kerzhner/Amazon

“We always said leave it to the ‘Eco Challenge’ to take something you love and make you never want to do it again,” Flebbe added, chuckling.

For Team SuperFighters, a team named for the obstacles each member has faced and overcome through their lives, whether it be cancer, a knee replacement or the loss of a patella, it was their past challenges that prepared them for the race. 

“I think all that we had gone through in life before this race was much harder, like emotionally, spiritually and physically, too, but it prepared us for this,” Flebbe added. “Our life challenges definitely prepared us well to have a mindset to never give up.”

The race began with a traditional Fijian Kava ceremony, where the chief blessed racers and opened his lands to them, and through the struggles, one thing that struck the team was the kindness of the Fijians. 

“I absolutely love the people of Fiji,” Flebbe added. “I have never met a culture that is so incredibly generous. When you say you would give the shirt off your back, they literally gave the shirts off theirs.” 

Throughout the race, Fijians opened their homes to the racers, feeding them, allowing them to sleep on their floors, and one family even went out of their way to guide them through the jungle.

Sean Martin, Heather Flebbe, Danny Trudeau, Cary Flebbe and Michaels Nicholaides (left to right) stand with their bikes and backpacks as they prepare for the 400-mile Eco Challenge in Fiji. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“They woke up at 3:30 in the morning with us and traveled five hours through the jungle with us, which means they had to go back five hours after they’d left us,” Flebbe said. 

“The energy they brought to us was incredible,” she added. “From the lead to the last team, they gave the same energy to all those teams.”

Win or lose, it was an experience that changed each and every member of the team.

“We are all touched and changed and shaped and molded in different ways, and it definitely broke us completely down … but then pulled us out of it, too,” she said. 

And while it was challenging, she hopes to one day have the opportunity to do it all over again.

“World’s Toughest Race” premieres on Amazon Prime on Friday, with a live watch party scheduled at noon, as the show’s host Bear Grylls live tweets via @BearGrylls and @ToughRaceTV through the first two episodes using the hashtag #WorldsToughestRace.

Heather Flebbe and Michael Nicolaides of Team SuperFighters compete in the 2019 Eco-Challenge adventure race in Fiji on Thursday, September 19, 2019. Courtesy of Christian Pondella/Amazon

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