Challenge Vendettas Player Preview: Nicole Zanatta

After a one-season break, Nicole has returned for her second season. Nicole had an incredible rookie season on Invasion of the Champions, highlighted by a third-place finish in the final. Her game was overshadowed by the games of others — the Cory/Kailah relationship, Tony failing, Shane being the big surprise of the season, Lavender Ladies versus Jailah, and the emergence of Hunter and Nelson were big story-lines. At the same time, Nicole the person was thrilling to watch, while Nicole the player was boring. Yes, she did well in the missions themselves, except the format of Invasion gave little chances for individuals to impress. Because of this, her physical game took a back seat.

Her season was well-documented for her pursuit of Cara Maria and Laurel. In a game where the Champions were supposed to intimidate and terrorize the rookies, Nicole viewed the Champions as people she could have in bed with her while she plays the game. Nicole created more inner-team turmoil within the Champions than anyone else. She failed in her pursuit of Cara Maria, then pivoted into hooking up with Laurel and dated her off the show for months. They split a few months prior to the filming of Vendettas. If you could not tell from the trailer, Nicole finally got to kiss Cara Maria.

Not sure if this is a hookup, a dare, or anything, just know it happens. This seems like a petty move considering Laurel and Cara Maria are formerly best friends, while Nicole’s break-up from Laurel was still very recent.

Nicole is the better version of Cory. It seems like she comes on these shows in order to find people to hook up with, and she talks about winning. The difference is Nicole does actually win missions and is a feared physical competitor.

Skills & Physical Strength: She is looking jacked coming into Vendettas. Nicole has always loved to flaunt her muscles and abs — this time around she looks bigger and better than ever.

Most of the girls on the cast cannot perform a pull-up. Nicole probably does multiple sets of pull ups and other upper body work-outs. She has worked hard to make her body a cut piece of muscle. Her athletic pedigree is impressive. Having done both track and football in high school, Nicole is possibly the most explosive female athlete on the Challenge since Evelyn. Laurel is a giant, and Emily is a physical specimen, the two aren’t natural athletes in the way Nicole is. Laurel has size and is a good athlete, however, she is a bit flat footed and clumsy at times. It took Emily a couple seasons to learn better swimming and running form.

As a track athlete, when Nicole starts running she has a burst no other girl has. She proved it a couple times on Invasion by winning immunity in the curry eating challenge during the race portion, and set a faster pace than most of the males in Day Two of the final. It often takes many of the females about a few hundred feet or more before they get a solid running burst, Nicole takes off almost immediately. The first step in sports is often the biggest separator when it comes to individual competition. Overall speed matters in a marathon, in a sprint it is about who gets the initial edge and takes the momentum. Daily challenges are sprints.

Her weakness in physical competitions is over-confidence. She failed on a couple missions on Invasion because she attempted to attack every mission relying too much on her physical abilities. Nicole needs to use her brain more. There were a couple times where she did well in missions on Invasion because she could physically do things other girls couldn’t.

Social, Mental, & Political Game: For someone who seems to get on people’s nerves at times, Nicole is everyone’s best friend. After the season she is always talking and texting with people from the show like they are family. One day she is with the girls, another day with the guys, and is always loyal to her best friends on the show. Nicole plays a great social game and it’s not really talked about. This season she enters the game with allies in Cory, Tony, Nelson, Shane, Marie, and Kailah. Meaning she is friends with one of the best female competitors and a couple strong male competitors. Guys want to run the final with Nicole from a physical perspective.

Her biggest weakness is puzzles. Nicole cannot do a puzzle to save her life. Despite her finishing in first place of both day two and day three of the final on Invasion, Nicole finished in third place because of her inability to solve a simple math puzzle on Day One that set her back completely. In order for her to win, she better be practicing puzzles in-between her sets at the gym.

Elimination & Winning Potential: Holding down a career 1–0 elimination record, Nicole did all she could to avoid eliminations on Invasion, only competing in one once she was forced to during the Underdog Bloodbath. In the three-way tug of war elimination, Nicole literally pulled her two opponents in like they were dogs on leashes. She lost the first round because Ashley and Amanda teamed up against her. Nicole went on to beat Amanda in the second round. Considering eliminations often get physical, nobody should want to see Nicole in elimination. Similarly, Nicole should be terrified of walking into an elimination with a puzzle.

Can Nicole win? Yes. For her to win the final, she needs to be average in puzzles or eliminate both Cara and Kailah (her biggest threats to winning). If she is not better at the mental portion of the game, she must get the better players out, simple as that.

Overall Rating: 89/100

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Allan Aguirre

Allan Aguirre

26 years old. I blog about MTV's the Challenge and will dabble into other subjects occasionally. Follow me on Twitter for the occasional bad joke.