In case you ever wanted to know, the taste of a sheep’s head is pungent, salty and a bit oily. For vegetarian Kathy Chang and her teammate Natalie Strand, the sheep’s head was one of many obstacles on the path to winning “Amazing Race 17.”
“Each bite was a little bit different because (Strand) had taken the whole head and all the meat and cut everything into little pieces so we couldn’t tell what it was,” Chang said. “Some pieces were the eye ball, some pieces were the tongue … some were crunchy and some were really salty and meaty.”
The support Chang received from Strand, along with the jokes Strand told while they ate, helped her get through the challenge, just as Chang’s support helped Strand manage her diabetes during the show. Chang and Strand, who met during orientation for their residency at the UCLA Medical Center, are the first all-female team to win “Amazing Race 17.”
Chang and Strand, known on the show as “Nat and Kat,” built their relationship by becoming part of one another’s support system during their three years at UCLA.
“We became friends pretty quickly because you spend so much time together during residency, so you quickly get to know the people that you’re around and the people that you kind of rely on when you’re in the hospital working,” said Chang, who pursued a career in medicine as an afterthought after finishing her undergraduate study as a non-science student.
Diana Cheng, a third-year communication studies student, said the pair’s college education gave them an advantage.
“Initially I thought they had a good shot. I felt like they were a pretty strong team throughout the season,” Cheng said. “Since they are doctors, they have an education. They are smart and they can strategize.”
Chang and Strand started off strong by being the first team to arrive at the first checkpoint, Stonehenge, though several other teams took an earlier flight.
“That actually made us feel pretty good, I think,” Strand said. “Right off the bat, going to such a monumental, historical landmark was really cool. The sun was just coming up, the park was closed to other visitors and Kat and I just had this feeling of giddiness like, “˜Oh my gosh, we’re actually on “Amazing Race.” Here we are walking up to Stonehenge, opening up one of those clue envelopes that you see on TV.’ The whole thing was starting to feel real.”
From England the race took the duo to 10 different countries, including Ghana, Russia and Norway, where the sheep’s head challenge took place. Chang and Strand’s “Amazing Race” adventure came full circle in the final leg of the race, which took place in Los Angeles. According to Chang, being on their home turf gave the team a slight tactical edge.
“I think during the actual race it was comforting (to be in Los Angeles because) when we were actually in the taxis we would know we were going in the right direction. We might not have known the exact “˜Turn right here, turn left there,’ but we knew that “˜Okay, we’re heading toward Long Beach now, we’re going the right way,’” Chang said.
At the same time, after traveling the world, navigating foreign countries, dealing with language barriers and dining on sheep heads, Strand said there’s something comforting about being home again.
“I was in Los Angeles for three years during residency, and it definitely made me feel good to know that we were heading back to Los Angeles,” Strand said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a huge advantage because Los Angeles is so huge and I pretty much spent all of my time either in Westwood or Santa Monica, but it did feel good to know that we were heading home.”