The Closest Challenge Finale Contests

The newest ‘Champs vs. Stars’ victors won by the skin of their teeth, and they weren’t the first

Let’s do away with diplomacy for a second: The Champs blew The Stars out of the water on Champs vs. Stars Season 2, and won every single mission along the way. It was decisive. It was unarguable. It wasn’t even close.

As for Season 3? Well, that turned out to be a bit of a different story.

On tonight’s finale, in which Teams CT/Tony, Casper/Louise and Wes/Booby squared off for the grand prize, the leaders changed as frequently as the weather in New England. As Mike “The Miz” Mizanin pointed out, it was the closest finale the franchise had seen — each team spent at least one leg in first, each spent at least a bit of time in second and each spent at least some of the race trailing the others in third.

But after all of the “Bankroll” running, untangling and — in Casper’s case — leisurely doughnut-eating — CT and Tony officially won the whole enchilada, a particularly stunning victory considering CT injured his back early in the game and was nearly forced to withdraw.

“There was no way I was gonna quit, no matter how bad the conditions,” CT said. “No matter how bad you feel, you’ve gotta keep moving forward, because sooner or later, you’re gonna catch a break. And we caught one. We won.”

Still, CT and Tony weren’t the first team to come from behind to claim victory, or win by a hair. Check out the closest Challenge finale contests below, and if there’s one that we missed, be sure to share it in the comments!

  • Inferno

    Straight out of the gate, the smaller Team Real World took the lead, but fell back again once Road Rules — who had twice as many teammates — found their footing. Still, Real World eventually took the lead again toward at the end of the game, but at the final checkpoint, a crossword puzzle, Road Rules proved to have a quicker wit, and Real World literally watched their opponents take a victory march across the finish line.

  • Duel II

    On the women’s side, Rachel won first place by a mile, but where the men were concerned, it was a buzzer-beater like no other. A final checkpoint found contestants having pull themselves up and down a chain-powered elevator, and Evan and Brad hit the ground at virtually the same time, amounting to a crazy photo-finish in Evan’s favor.

  • Free Agents

    The race to the top of Chili’s hulking Villarrica Volcano reduced some competitors to squeals and cries (we’ll never forget you, collapsed Zach…). Still, it was a dogfight between Johnnies Bananas and Reilly on the men’s side and Laurel and Nany on the women’s side. Once each player’s cumulative time had been clocked, TJ revealed that Bananas had barely beaten Reilly, even though Reilly had reached the summit first, and Laurel bested Nany by mere minutes.

  • Battle of the Seasons

    The fiery Team Road Rules was the favorite going into the final mission, and they proved they’d earned the reputation as the stronger team by dominating a majority of the race. But, at the final puzzle, they fell apart and — who’da thunk it — Mike “The Miz” summoned the dormant intellect inside, solved the puzzle in an instant and gave Team Real World the ultimate win, his and Coral’s first.

  • Battle of the Exes

    A two-day race to the top of an Icelandic glacier somehow came down to seconds, and though Diem and CT held the lead toward the end of the game, CT simply lost steam as he made the finale’s final ascent. Diem would have won if the game had been a solo one, but because of CT’s stalling, Johnny and Camila passed their competitors just before the finish line and stole away the coveted prize.

  • The Duel

    Again, on the women’s side, Jodi dominated the final mission the same way she’d dominated the entire season. But where the men were concerned, Wes barely kept a lead over Brad, who was on Wes’ tail until the finish line. It was later revealed on the show’s reunion special that the race had been so close, Wes might have lost without his two-minute head-start advantage.