Can Georgia couple Rod and Leticia Gardner win ‘The Amazing Race’?

They are one of four teams who are vying for the $1 million prize.
Rod Gardner and Leticia Gardner in the seventh episode of "The Amazing Race" season 36. Photo: CBS ©2024 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Credit: CBS

Credit: CBS

Rod Gardner and Leticia Gardner in the seventh episode of "The Amazing Race" season 36. Photo: CBS ©2024 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

The 36th season of “The Amazing Race” on CBS has featured the dominant play of New York boyfriends Ricky Rotandi and Cesar Aldrete. In nine rounds, they have won six times and come in second three times.

They are obvious favorites going into Wednesday’s season finale to take home the $1 million prize.

But don’t count out Rod and Leticia Gardner, a Lawrenceville married couple. They won the first two legs and have never fallen below fifth place as nine other teams were eliminated.

They have made a few mistakes along the way, none fatal. Strategically, they have worked with other teams when they needed to while working together harmoniously most of the time. Rod’s upbeat attitude and raw athleticism, having come from the NFL, along with Leticia’s patience and perseverance, have made them a formidable team.

The couple over the first nine episodes traveled to several South American and Caribbean countries such as Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke to the Gardners on Tuesday by phone while they were at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport en route to New York City for an “Amazing Race” cast reunion party.

So long ago: The season was shot in 2022 so “half the things we saw we didn’t even remember,” Rod said. Leticia: “We didn’t really take in the scenery.”

Competitive drive: “We don’t just show up,” Rod said. “We’re always going for the win. I was trying to be cool and keep good energy. Everyone was so nice. I wish there was a team we could get mad at but there wasn’t.”

Navigation issues: They got lost a lot. “We’d try to stay close to someone else with good navigation skills,” Leticia said. “I can read maps but we didn’t know the languages.” Rod: “Sometimes they’d give us a destination that wasn’t on the map.”

Communication was strong: “We know how to work well and communicate under pressure. We kept our cool for the most part,” Leticia said. Rod added, “I taught my wife: the next play. Go on to the next play.”

On front-runners Ricky and Cesar: “We can’t take anything from them. We didn’t see that coming,” Rod said. “They didn’t make many mistakes.” Leticia: “They are silent killers.”

On Rod comically struggling with the baseball challenge last week: “Didn’t you have a baseball scholarship?” Leticia asked. “That was a long time ago,” Rod replied. “I’m not a baseball guy. But it was funny. I was looking crazy even to myself.”

Ditching her backpack: Leticia tried to look good for the cameras even after ditching her backpack following the second leg of the race, paring down her clothing and makeup to the bare essentials. “I had like two outfits and my lip gloss,” she said.

Weighing the detours: There was a choice two weeks ago between building a fish trap or moving massive amounts of seaweed off the beach. One took precision and time, the other brute force and effort. Two young military pilots leapfrogged them by opting for the seaweed pick up. Rod said they decided to stick with the fish trap because Rod felt he couldn’t move the wheelbarrow of seaweed across the beach by himself. “I know my wife’s limitations,” he said.

Dietary issues: Rod has a strict diet but in South America, all he could find was ham, which he doesn’t eat. “There was no chicken or turkey,” he said. He subsisted on the 50 protein bars he brought along with him.


“The Amazing Race”

9:30 p.m. season finale on Wednesday, May 15, with all season episodes available the next day on Paramount+