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Max and Christian Still Wrestle with Their Race to Survive: Alaska Placing
The super-competitive team admits the finish line loss to the "AK Bros." still stings months later.
From the very first leg of USA Network's intense competition/adventure series, Race to Survive: Alaska, it became pretty clear that the two strongest teams competing for the $500,000 prize were Alaska native brothers Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn and the friend team of Max Djenohan and Christian Junkar. Sure, the father/son team of Jeff and Hunter Leininger were strong navigators, and siblings Cason Crane and Bella Crane were endurance strategists, but the two aforementioned Alpha male teams had one another in their sights.
And sure enough, all six legs of the race saw the two teams vying to make it first to the six metal boxes that held the winner's medals at the end of every grueling two days of challenges. In the season finale episode, "The Last Medallion," the "AK Bros" — as dubbed by Djenohan and Junkar — ended up taking the win and the prize money ... much to Djenohan's chagrin.
For the ultra-competitive Djenohan, who had previously competed in six separate Naked and Afraid survival episodes, the loss was a tough one that still smarts. But for Junkar, the race was conclusive proof of the strength of his endurance and safety skills. And his first introduction to the odd world of reality television.
"Max and I talked about this out there too, but normally when you take a big hiking trip or a climb, you're picking your objective and you have absolute control of when you leave, when you stop for a break, what you're going to bring, where you set up camp," Christian explained to USA Insider. "You can really do whatever you want. There's no rules out there. But when you're on a TV show, and it's a race as well, so there's multiple levels of rules."
Junkar said it took a few weeks of filming Race to Survive: Alaska to get used to the distractions. "We've got to film what we're doing so we've got to stop for a second to film an interview," he said. "Max and I were really there for the challenge of it and I think it being a TV show kind of added to the challenge. I think we handled it pretty well and took on the challenge that was given to us as best we could."
Despite their loss to the Hoogendorn brothers being in their proverbial rearview mirrors, Djenohan admitted he hasn't let it go, mentally. "I absolutely hate losing, so I've been battling with that," he shared. "But as time is further away from the challenge, I'm starting to feel more OK with it. But I do think it's more powerful that two indigenous people from Alaska — natives — showed up and they freaking crushed it. If we're gonna lose to anybody, those are some good guys to lose to. They're genuine people."
What's next for Max and Christian?
He said he's turned any frustration into preparedness. "I just want to keep pushing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually to be the best I can be, in all realms so if there was a Race to Survive: Whatever, if that call comes, I want to be at a point where there's no way we're getting second place."
Djenohan said his training includes the self-imposed goal of being the first Black person to climb all Seven Summits, which are the highest mountains in the world. "I've been slowly chipping away at that," he explained. "I was able to do Aconcagua in South America this last winter and then hopefully going down to Australia/Papa New Guinea to hit two more."
Junkar said he's heading to Peru soon to climb new mountains on his own personal "to-do" list. "This [show] gave me more of that expedition confidence. In a sense, I've been holding myself back a little bit for years," he shared. "I love climbing and I can climb really hard. But with climbing, you can also get yourself into trouble. This trip for Max and I, we had to keep ourselves safe because we're out there for a long time. I think that helped me build more trust in myself of that I can keep myself safe on big trips as it's been a focus of mine. I'm ready to take the next step and explore bigger mountain ranges that I haven't even been to, and try to test myself further."
Asked about returning to the competition or survivalist reality show circuit, Djenohan didn't seem interested outside of a Race to Survive repeat. "I haven't really thought too much about reality TV as of right now. I'm just trying to get back to reality," he joked. "But I'm always gonna be ready. It's easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape so that's my mentality."
On the other hand, Junkar admitted he's gotten a taste of reality competition and he'd be open to any outdoor-based, survival races looking to cast. "I have a fascination with obstacle courses so like American Ninja Warrior," he said. "I would love to do something like tests of fitness. But also anything outdoors is really cool for me. I don't think I could ever see myself on like a dating show or anything, but I don't think my girlfriend would let me do that anyway."