PCHS Grad Vinny Rojas Wins Canada's Ultimate Challenge
by Sonia Ruivo
West Island resident, trainer, and PCHS graduate, Vinny Rojas has had quite an eventful year. He recently won the first season of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge on CBC.
Vinny’s road to a career in fitness and eventually winning the challenge started when he was young. His dad, Luis Emilio Rojas Gonzalez, gave him a set of toy dumbbells, and he was mesmerized. He would mimic his dad when he worked out. “I’m a copycat of my father. I think he’s proud of me.”
Vinny credits his PCHS teachers for his career choice. “Mr. Nathan was my coach and English teacher. He kept me in check when I needed it. He encouraged me getting and staying in shape and became one of many reasons why I started my fitness journey. Ms. Amar was a cool Science teacher! She got me interested in the different systems in our body and later that added to my knowledge as a fitness instructor. It was those little moments and experiences that lead me to where I am today.”
After graduating from PCHS, Vinny went to Vanier and Concordia where he obtained a degree in Leisure Sciences. He also obtained NASM certification: personal and group fitness, corrective exercise, and performance.
Applying to be a member of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge was, “a very impulsive decision.” A fellow trainer forwarded him a link to apply for the challenge. All he knew was that it was a TV show. He figured “why not” apply and a month later a producer called Vinny. After a Zoom interview, Vinny was invited to appear in the first season of the show.
The shooting schedule lasted 6.5 weeks. No one knew what he was up to. When he posted pictures from across the country, friends thought that he’d won a random raffle to a road trip across Canada. When the competition ended, he was sworn to secrecy. In December, CBC started advertising the show, and he finally told people that he had participated in the series.
Vinny started the show as a member of Team Orange. Then the show producers threw in a plot twist, and he was swapped to the Black Team. When he was switched, Team Orange was in first place and Team Black was in fourth. This did not deter Vinny who thought “I told myself, if that’s the case, this is the team I’m going to win on. It was nerve-wracking at first. If I start thinking negatively, I know that my performance will suffer. I wanted my new team to know that I’m on board. I told them that I was glad to be on their team.”
“We were almost dead last and worked our way up to first place. That took dedication, discipline, motivation. We knew from the very beginning that we were going to make this work. We never once talked about failing. We knew the mistakes we made, and we learned from them.” That was a lesson they learned from their coach Luke Willson. Luke, a retired NFLer, fellow Canadian, and Super Bowl winner, often reminded the team: Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Instead, learn from your mistakes.
Vinny’s favourite memory is from the last episode. Team Black vs. Team Orange were facing off against each other in the finals. He was pushing a sled on the Bay of Fundy, knee deep in mud, and he was struggling. His teammate Devon on the sled, put him into overdrive. “Honestly, I wanted to quit. I really did. But, right in my ear was my teammate Devon who was the one on the sled. She was screaming ‘you got this! You’re my hero!’ And her words put me into overdrive.” The encouragement gave Vinny a second wind and he found the energy to complete his task and win the challenge.
As the winners of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge, Vinny and his Team Black teammates are headed to the Paris Olympics in 2024. The team will enjoy a VIP experience throughout the entire games. Vinny is hoping to watch the track and field events, especially relay, long jump, and javelin.
Looking back on his exciting year, Vinny had some parting words: “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to change your daily routine, even if just for a little while, to try something new. You never know the experiences and moments you’ll gain from it. Doing this show really helped me change my outlook. I learned new things from my teammates and how to manage my life. I am grateful for everything I’ve learned.”
To watch entire series: https://gem.cbc.ca/canadas-ultimate-challenge