Barbara Kendall lets us in on what she found hardest to deal with on Celebrity Treasure Island

''It wasn’t about trying to get fame or fortune... Personally, I had nothing to prove''

Some do it for the fame, some do it for the fortune. However, not many celebrities embark on reality television shows for sheer curiosity – but then Barbara Kendall has always done things a little differently.
The gold, silver and bronze Olympic medallist admits she didn't hesitate when asked to appear on Celebrity Treasure Island, her second jab at a celeb-focused competition following her turn on Dancing with the Stars 10 years ago.
"Yeah, that's how you get yourself into all sorts of mischief!" she laughs.
"I always say yes. I say, 'Yes, of course!' without thinking, and then I go, 'Shoot, what have I just done?' And then I have to figure out how to do it. This time was no different!"
Barbara chose Surf Life Saving New Zealand as her charity on the show. Image: Supplied
Barbara is one of 16 well-known Kiwis dispatched to a lonely Pacific island to battle it out for $100,000 in prize money, which will go straight to the winner's chosen charity.
The prospect of being left on an island with a bunch of social media influencers, actors, singers and fellow sports stars didn't bother Barbara in the slightest, she tells.
"People kept asking, 'What's going to be the hardest part, hanging out with all of these young social influencers and all the drama and what not?'" she nods.
"But that's easy. That doesn't even ruffle my feathers in the slightest – people don't worry me, I've been in far too many different environments and situations for that to happen!"
No, it wasn't her fellow competitors, creepy crawlies or the fact that, at 51, she was the oldest woman on the island that worried the former windsurfer – Barbara knew exactly what her stumbling block would be.
"Food!" she exclaims.
"Being an athlete, I know how important it is, and I have such a high metabolism. I knew that I would struggle. And I did. I was hungry 24/7."
So it's all real, then? No luxury, five-star lodges just out of shot for when the cameras aren't rolling?
"No!" she says, again with her trademark laugh. "Everyone thinks that; everyone thought they'd at least give us food! But they gave us rice and that was it. It was very real!"
Contestants on this year's show include (from left) Moses Mackay, Shane Cameron, Lana Van Hout, Athena Angelou, Matty McLean, Barbara, Rosanna Arkle, Gary Freeman. Image: Supplied
While the lack of food proved a tough hurdle to clear, Barbara, who's mum to Samantha (17) and Aimee (13), has a history of putting herself into interesting situations.
But this time, she just wanted to see how far she could push herself – and how her fellow competitors would react to adverse conditions.
After easing her obligations to the International Olympic Committee last year, where she'd held a high-powered position advocating for New Zealand's sporting interests, she's had more time to herself and for her family. But when a challenge comes calling, the former boardsailor just can't help herself.
"I have an amazing family, two amazing teenage daughters, a great job, I've held a variety of roles and I've travelled extensively. I've probably already lived about five lives in my lifetime," she tells.
"It wasn't about trying to get fame or fortune, and it was amazing to be able to compete for my charity Surf Lifesaving New Zealand; it's definitely a driver − but mine was more, 'Ooh, this should be fun, this should be fascinating − let's see what happens.' Personally, I had nothing to prove."
Like a typical athlete, Barbara hasn't let retirement stop her from seeing how far she can take her resilience and resolve, and wasn't worried that there were younger, stronger competitors on the island.
"Eh, I'm an all-rounder anyway," she says with a cheeky grin and a shrug.
"You do find out things about yourself and that's what I wanted to see. That's what I loved about being an athlete, you know, I didn't retire until I was 41. I always enjoyed seeing what challenges would pop up in front of me, emotionally, physically, mentally – I mean, I was competing at that age with two kids! This was another extension of that."
The only concession Barbara made to her age was a simple one – paying close attention to the health and safety measures the production company had placed around filming.
On a previous season of Celebrity Treasure Island, former contestant Lana Coc-Kroft almost died of toxic shock syndrome after stepping on coral and cutting her foot.
"When I said yes, my next thought was, 'Hang on, be a normal person and get information first,'" she tells.
"When I got the information, there was a lot around health and safety, so I thought 'Yup, I can do this. I should be safe within the realms of what they're going to put me through.'
"People rely on me, and the biggest thing for me was safety. I'm about to be 52 any day now; I'm not a spring chicken anymore... physically I'm not going to be able to compete with someone who's in their 20s or 30s."
With Eric Murray on Celebrity Treasure Island Image: Supplied
There was one other thing she had to do before embarking on the adventure – get the approval of Samantha and Aimee!
"My biggest fear was that I'd embarrass them. Or something could happen and they'd go, 'Oh my God, Mum!' That may still happen!
"But they were really excited by me going on it, they told me I had to do it, they told me they'd be fine and not to worry about them. They were so supportive. If they'd told me they didn't want me to do it… well, I don't know. Maybe I would have done it, maybe not."
While she's happy with how she played the game – no spoilers here – Barbara admits to having a few nerves at seeing the episodes for the first time.
"I'm very interested to see how they portray it," she says.
"I mean, I know what went on, I know all the stories… what happened was insane. It was very interesting to see what triggered people who were under pressure. All I will say is that it's amazing at how the two camps were radically different. And I was very glad to be in my camp."
So now she's ticked off dancing and survival, will there be a third reality appearance? Maybe – but only if there's food!
"I really enjoyed it… If we had food, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. But now I don't have to put myself through something like that again!"
Celebrity Treasure Island screens on TVNZ 2, Sundays at 7pm, Mondays and Tuesdays at 7.30pm

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