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‘Amazing Race’ Champions Derek Xiao and Claire Rehfuss Return for Season 35 Premiere

The Amazing Race season 34 champions Derek Xiao and Claire Rehfuss will make a special appearance during the season 35 premiere of the reality competition series, Us Weekly can exclusively reveal.

In an exclusive first look at the premiere episode, which airs on CBS Wednesday, September 27, Derek, 26, and Claire, 27, prepare to give clues to Amazing Race contestants who successfully traverse a tightrope between two buildings and unscramble a word puzzle.

Derek and Claire, who began dating in the fall of 2021 after meeting as contestants on season 23 of Big Brother that summer, told Us they were happy to be clue givers rather than competitors this time around.

“It was very fun to not be stressed,” Claire said. Derek revealed that the duo decided to try out the premiere episode’s challenge themselves just for fun — and found it harder than they’d anticipated.

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“Me and Claire [were] like, ‘Yeah, let me just go ahead and break this record for you guys.’ And then we go up to do the challenge. I thought we were going to be there all day,” Derek admitted. “You had to figure out a phrase by unscrambling words, and I’m looking at these [letters] and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that makes a word.’”

Amazing Race Alums Derek and Claire Return for Season 35 Premiere
Derek Xiao and Claire Rehfuss. Sonja Flemming/CBS

Claire did not partake in the tightrope aspect of the challenge as she was already forced to conquer her fear of heights during a November 2022 episode of The Amazing Race.

“[This challenge] was very similar to what I had to do in Ronda [Spain] when I had to cross the tightrope and I saw it and just [had] flashbacks,” she explained. “I was like, ‘I’ll stay on the ground. I’m fine.’”


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In addition to facing phobias, Derek and Claire’s communication skills as a couple were put to the test during their time on the show. Claire explained that trusting the other person to take control during stressful situations was difficult for the pair as they’re “both confident people.”

She continued: “We both want to do all of it ourselves, but learning how to rely on the other person was what was key.”

Derek echoed his girlfriend’s sentiments. “That is the thing that we had to overcome and that brought us closer together: ‘How do we both feel our opinions, and then during the times when there may be separate opinions, how do we reconcile that to keep pushing forward and understand where the other person is coming from?’” he explained. “So, I think the [Amazing] Race was incredible. 20 years of relationship therapy.”

The duo have learned a lot from each other outside of their shared reality TV ventures. Derek told Us that Claire has shown him how to be more understanding of other people’s feelings.

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“She’s a very empathetic person. She not just feels [but] internalizes other people’s emotions and how they’re seeing a situation and she empathizes with that,” he shared. “And I feel like that’s something that has hopefully transferred over to me. I’ve been picking up one percent of it, which is already one percent more than I had.”

Claire, meanwhile, said Derek has helped her see the bright side of every situation.

“Derek enters every situation or environment that we’re going into with an optimistic lens. I think Derek’s way more optimistic than I am,” she confessed. “I am a pretty fear-based person and an anxiety person. … He’s made me more open-minded and more open to going to [new] environments or hanging out with people or doing new things that normally I would be like, ‘No, that’s too much. I would rather just stay home.’”

After proving themselves to be a strong couple during season 34 of The Amazing Race — and taking home the $1 million prize – Derek and Claire couldn’t help but notice a few season 35 duos who seemed to be ahead of the pack during their guest appearance. Although she didn’t name names, Claire said that “there were two teams that really stood out that are going to be powerhouses this season.”

She continued: “It seems like there’s a lot of Amazing Race superfans [this season]. This is a really amazing cast that they have. Everyone was really bringing the energy. I’m sure they were nervous for their first day out there, but they were really tackling it.”

Season 35 of The Amazing Race premieres on CBS Wednesday, September 27, at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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