THEY were not as athletic as some of their competitors, nor did they have that nasty streak that would have enabled them to backstab their way to victory. Instead, we saw them wiping away each other’s tears, talking gently to a donkey, and even falling flat on their faces while running in an airport. They were our Malaysian girls, Zabrina Fernandez and Tee Joe Jer who won the first The Amazing Race Asia (TARA) in 2006. They surprised everyone by powering through to win the coveted title and the US$100,000 (RM410,000) cash prize. They were the first all-female team to win in the The Amazing Race franchise and, at the time, were the first team to win without relying on a Fast Forward or a Yield and also the first winners to win only the final leg of the race. The duo are also the only Malaysians to have won the race so far. So how has life changed for them since the race? Today, Zabrina is a married mother of two and has her own production company, while Joe Jer takes on projects as a freelance producer. The two recounted their experiences at a media interview recently. Back then, Zabrina and Joe Jer were colleagues at Channel [V]. The girls were considered the underdogs from the very beginning of the race. “Both of us clicked right from the start and we were just happy to be there,” said Joe Jer, who added that they did get more competitive towards the end when they realised that they could win it. Zabrina added: “We didn’t think we were going to win. It was like winning the lottery. We did it for fun and then suddenly we won. “I spent the money on a few things and I saved some. I went on holiday, paid off my credit card debts and spent some on my family.” Joe Jer, meanwhile, kept all of the prize money and is now using it to fund her business – a restaurant in Madrid, which she co-owns with her boyfriend. For Zabrina, she continued to have a connection to the show after her win, as part of the support production company that worked on TARA whenever there was a Malaysian leg in the race. When asked if they would do it all over again, Joe Jer said: “Sure. It is just so much fun. I may not watch it any more, but just to go on this treasure hunt thing for free and be a kid again, why not?” Zabrina said: “Before TARA, there was no Asian franchise for top US reality shows. There was no Asia’s Next Top Model, no Asia’s Got Talent. TARA was the first. “Everybody wanted to be a part of this show. I think they did have a good balance. I just wish they had carried on instead of [going on] hiatus.” The show took a break after the fourth season ended in 2010. When asked if they had any advice for contestants based on their own experiences, Joe Jer said with a laugh: “Don’t cut your hair, wear better clothes, don’t wear bandannas thinking it will bring you luck (or maybe they did) and don’t wear over-sized T-shirts that you were given for free.” “We were not image savvy,” laughed Zabrina. Both also added that they were willing to race again if there is an All-Stars edition. We can only hope that the three Malaysian teams in the upcoming TARA 5 will take a page or two out of Zabrina and Joe Jer’s playbook and bag the race for Malaysia. The fifth season of The Amazing Race Asia will premiere on Oct 13 on AXN and AXN HD (Astro channels 701 and 721) at 9pm.