Paula said it best as she watched her “Real World: Key West” housemate, Johnny, struggle through the most recent “Rivals II” mission: “Papa’s getting old.” The usually dominant competitor barely made it through “Rampage” alive, while his partner, spring chicken Frank, navigated the game’s steep ramps as if they were inch-high step stools. Johnny, now 31, and Paula, 32, aren’t the only Challengers whose birthday cakes are getting a little crowded with candles, but just because they’re approaching AARP membership doesn’t mean they’re done with “The Challenge” altogether.
Below are seven more competitors who have breached the 30-year-old mark and are still fighting strong. Check ’em all out, and tell us if you think they’ve got a few years left before retirement calls.
CT, 33: His “Real World” season brought him to Paris 10 years ago, and he’s since developed a reputation as one of the most feared “Challenge” competitors. Still, he cost Diem the grand prize in the “Exes” finale when he lost his steam in Iceland, and let’s not forget: He has yet to actually win one of these things. Can Chris pick things back up in the “Rivals II” finale?
Trishelle, 32: When Trishelle touched down in Sin City, she was a sweet, perky 22-year-old, but since 2002, fans have learned you can’t judge a book by its cover. Trishelle earned second place on “Battle Of The Seasons,” but abandoned her partner and quit “Rivals II.” Will she be back, or has the pro-poker player finally folded?
Alton, 33: Trishelle’s former housemate, Alton, has proudly flaunted his adrenaline junkie tendencies since his days in the Vegas desert, but his “Battle Of The Seasons” performance was, for the first time, less-than-stellar. Is the once-unbeatable competitor out of the mix for good, or will he be back to prove he really is the best in the game?
Aneesa, 32: Only 19 when she first set up shop on “Real World: Chicago,” Aneesa often mocked her fellow roommates for hitting the gym. Since then, she’s become an Elimination Round Queen on “The Challenge,” but will she survive the final Jungle and see the end of “Rivals II”?
Abram, 30: The 20-year-old spark plug was one of the most ruthless on “Road Rules: South Pacific,” but has since been sent home more than once for violence. His “Exes” performance wasn’t quite up to his usual athletic standard, so do you think he’s done for, or will we see the mountain man return?
Rachel, 30: Since her days as a 19-year-old on “RoadRules: Campus Crawl,” Rachel has been one of the most feared female Challengers in the game. However, much like Abram, she was knocked out of “Exes” far sooner than is typical for the vet. Will she come back with an iron fist and reclaim her throne, or have we seen the last of her?
Mark, 42: Mr. 40-and-sporty will never be accused of letting his age serve as an excuse for a weak performance. He’s claimed to have retired from the game in the past, but returned even stronger, and just missed out on the final “Exes” mission. Is it too much to hope he’ll be around until 50, or should Mark start fitting himself for a walker and muumuu?
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Photos: Rene Cervantes