Contestants on Canada’s Ultimate Challenge try mine rescue scenario under oxygen
This year, Ontario Mine Rescue, was featured in the inaugural season of the CBC reality television show, “Canada’s Ultimate Challenge.” Hosted by Nikki Reyes, sports broadcaster, and Craig McMorris, CBC Sports analyst, the competition series has all of Canada turned into a giant obstacle course.
For Episode 7, contestants travelled to Sudbury for a daunting mine rescue challenge. Filmed in Sudbury on a hot July day in 2022, the episode aired on March 30, 2023.
“We got lots of feedback from the contestants,” says Shawn Rideout, Chief Mine Rescue Officer at Ontario Mine Rescue (OMR). “Mainly because a lot of the other stuff they were doing like cycling and climbing ladders were things they could visualize. They could talk about with their coaches ahead of time. But with the mine rescue side of it, it was completely foreign to them –they had no idea what to expect – none of them were miners.
“There were a couple of firefighters, so they knew some of the props. But when you put them underground in an environment they had never seen before, it was challenging. They were really pumped up and excited to take part in it.
The episode shows how untrained individuals can panic and lose their breath when working using a mine rescue breathing apparatus. A few could not complete the 15-minute scenario, which demonstrates the importance of mine rescue training to be prepared for emergency work from two to four hours in duration.
“The contestants and viewers got a new appreciation for what mine rescue volunteers do,” says Rideout. “They learned how exhausting it can be.”
The 24 players from across the country competed in spectacular solo, tandem, or team challenges that put their skills to the test. They were mentored by six iconic Canadian athletes, including: sprinting legend, Donovan Bailey; Olympian in water polo and advocate for Indigenous sport, Waneek Horn-Miller; six-time Olympic medallist in cycling and speed skating and mental health advocate, Clara Hughes; three-time Olympian in speed-skating, Gilmore Junio; former captain of Canada’s Olympic bronze medal-winning rugby sevens team, Jen Kish; and NFL Super Bowl Champion with the Seattle Seahawks, Luke Willson.
“When I got the call from the production team, I thought it was a good opportunity to showcase Ontario Mine Rescue in a fun way, right across Canada,” says Rideout. “What attracted me to the show was their focus on physical challenges. I thought this is a great way to showcase what we do. We put together a committee of mine rescue officers that were available in July to lend a hand with the filming.
Ontario Mine Rescue staff came up with the scenario, prepared the site, and provided first aid services on-site during the filming. For the mine rescue challenge in episode 7, the teams went 750 metres underground to complete a simulated mine rescue scenario. MacLean Engineering provided their facilities to conduct the challenge.
The OMR team included Shawn Rideout, Danny Taillefer, Jason Leger, Jeff Farquharson, Matt Johnson, Nick Schwehr, Scott Gillett, and Ted Greenwood. Workplace Safety North administrative staff, Brianna Brohm and Tricia Valentim helped the production team who weren’t familiar with Sudbury. They provided directions and information for the three episodes they were filming here.
“I wrote the scenario on what they had to accomplish within a 15 to 20-minute window. We typically write scenarios that last two and a half to four hours, so 15 minutes doesn’t give you a lot of time.
“We designed this scenario and went to MacLean Engineering. It’s kind of unique at MacLean Engineering because it’s one of the only original equipment manufacturers that has an underground facility.
“We went there a couple of days before the filming and set up what we needed to do underground. We built a refuge station. We put in electrical props to make things arc and spark and make it appealing for TV and it turned out really well.”
Luke Willson’s Team Black won the grand prize: a trip to the Olympic Games Paris 2024 to cheer on Team Canada. Winners included Bradley Farquhar, a businessman and adventurer from Mahone Bay, NS; Kenny Ho, a marketing coordinator and track and field coach from Vancouver, BC; Devon MD Jones, a stretch therapist and reflexologist from Toronto, ON; and Alana Warnick, a firefighter from Winnipeg, MB.