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Close, but no big red balls

Whistler's Gavin Phillipson just misses a chance to compete in Wipeout

If you've never seen Wipeout, the smash hit obstacle course show, here's what's you're missing: contestants see how quickly they can navigate their way around a course that features collapsing bridges, rotating arms, spinning platforms, hydraulic boxing gloves, pools of mud, foam and water and the infamous big red balls - four huge balloons that contestants must run or jump across to avoid getting bounced 10 feet down into the pool below.

While it's next to impossible to have a clean run, every obstacle is padded and takes place over some kind of liquid - usually water. Whoever can make it to the finish the fastest can win $50,000.

The show has been on top of the ratings since it debuted in 2008, and this season the producers issued a call for a Wipeout Canada competition.

Whistler's Gavin Phillipson, a huge fan of the show, was one of 45,000 Canadians to throw their name into the ring and did not get a callback. However, he was offered a second chance to get into the competition through the Motrin Last Call for Canada's Wickedest Wipeout. He lobbied his friends and friends of friends to get the most votes on Facebook and passed the phone interview. He made the cut to be flown to Toronto, where he had a shot at making it onto the show after a head-to-head competition with nine other finalists.

"I'm really happy with my performance, but I got to one stage... where you have to find a ball in a pit of foam and it felt like it took me forever," he said. "So I didn't quite get the time I needed."

The course in Toronto didn't have any water features and was only about a minute long. While disappointed he didn't make it through, Phillipson says he takes comfort from the fact that he didn't lose because he was too slow.

"I really wish that I made it - it was a good experience and I had fun. And I'm originally from just north of Toronto so it was a free trip home," he said. "I just wish it wasn't a luck-based thing - although that's a good way to lose, not finding a ball. It's not like you can train for that."

Phillipson says he definitely will throw his name in the hat again next year, and will keep trying until he gets on the show. Next time he says he'll focus more on showing off his character than on his abilities as an athlete - something he says is probably more important to producers. In the meantime, he'll keep watching.

"At least now I can relax while I watch the show, for a while it was getting a little intense," he said. "Instead of watching it, I was like 'I have to do this, and make sure I don't do that,' and I have to train."

Phillipson says he had about two weeks notice before Toronto and used the time to get ready by hitting the gym, circuit classes and spending time in the pool.

If he made it through to Wipeout, his goal was to be a contender.

"I think I would have been," he said. "Any time I've visualized it, I was definitely winning or at least in the final Wipeout Zone."