CANMORE – The high stakes race of a lifetime is underway for Canmore's newest reality TV stars.
Local siblings Jesse Cockney, a two-time Olympian, and Marika Sila, an actress, stunt performer and influencer, are racing across the nation on the latest season of the hit game show The Amazing Race Canada.
"A lot of people grow up watching The Amazing Race Canada and we were those kids watching it on TV," said Cockney. "When an opportunity comes like that [to compete], don't miss it."
Season eight of the popular reality show airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. MST starting July 5 on CTV.
In The Amazing Race, 10 teams of two get clues and bolt across Canada with the goal of reaching certain destinations first to avoid elimination. A grand prize awaits the winners at the finish line in the season finale.
Without the use of cell phones and help from others, the twosomes can only rely on each other and combine forces over a month of challenges to make things work – or get sent home.
For big brother and little sister, communication was key throughout the process.
"Jesse was teaching me the difference between racing smart and racing hard," said Sila.
"It only gets harder and harder as you race," said Cockney. "You need each other more and more as you go on, so we had to improve our relationship as we went on further in the race."
Being on the road and travelling in stressful situations – especially while figuring out puzzling clues – can test patience. But it's something the two siblings can joke about following the filming of the show.
"Jesse was not taking things seriously at times and then so I would get a bit frustrated at that," Sila said with a laugh.
"I think we both dealt with issues at the same pace," said Cockney. "We were only getting mad at situations, not necessarily each other, so we'd get upset at whatever was going on. I think Marika would get a little upset at the situation before I would."
However, they said the show brought them together as adults and they were able to re-connect as they had as kids.
The siblings are of Inuvialuit heritage from Tuktoyaktuk, located in the far reaches of Northwest Territories that borders the Arctic Ocean. Their family moved from Yellowknife to Canmore more than two decades ago.
A master of frozen trails, Cockney competed at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing. He notably placed 35th in the men's classic sprint in PyeongChang. In 2012, he finished sixth in the world U23 championships in classic sprint and is a three-time Canada Winter Games gold medallist.
Shining brightly under the limelight, social media personality Sila recently took the lead in the 2022 horror/thriller film Ditched. Her acting credentials include starring in Tribal and an episode of The Twilight Zone's 2019 reboot. The young performer is highly active on social media, notably educating the masses on Inuk education or dazzling audiences with exciting hoop and lightsaber techniques.
When they were scouted to be a part of the show, each sibling was separately emailed by a producer, who were unaware they were related. The surprised brother and sister found out they had both been approached to compete over a family dinner.
So how did an Olympian and influencer use their special skill sets in the competition?
"There's a lot of fitness that's involved, so I would say that's what came through," said Cockney.
"No spoilers, but your skills shined through," he added to his sister.
"I was mostly along for the ride just trying to keep up with Jesse most of the time," Sila said. "I did come in handy sometimes when it came to strategy; we got through it together."
Viewers will have to tune in each week to see how the local duo does in the race.
"It looks easy on TV," said Cockney. "I've been there on the couch watching saying, 'figure it out'. Now we've been on the other side of the camera and it's not easy to figure it out. It's really hard. When the screws are being tightened and the heats being turned up, it's really tough to think your way out of a problem."