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American Grit's Clare Painter taught me not to discount female competitors

Passionate about dance, Stephanie's love of reality television and celebrity entertainment began with "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance." She has since discovered the wonders of the "Real Housewives," the Kardashia...

Clare Painter was American Grit's strongest contestant, but it took a victory to recognize it

The Girls of the Grit may have made a positive impression a few weeks back on American Grit, but when it came down to it, few viewers actually expected them to emerge victorious. After all, while the show is about mental toughness, there's an obvious physical element — so the show's many male athletes seem to have a huge advantage.

Clare Painter was American Grit's strongest contestant, but it took a victory to recognize it
Image: FOX

Prior to tonight's finale, I scoured Twitter for predictions and, as I expected, most people thought that either former football player Tony Simmons or lumberjack extraordinaire Mark Bouquin would win. A few were gunning for triathlete Mario Robinson. Almost nobody actually seemed to think that a woman could take home the win, although plenty of people were happy to cheer on female finalists Goldie Knocks, Clare Painter and Ashley "Haze" Hazlett.

More: American Grit's #GirlsoftheGrit take female empowerment to a new level

I'm saddened to say that I was among the many viewers who didn't expect a female to hang in until the very end. I think all three of the female finalists are amazing women, but going into tonight, I assumed they just had too much competition. Knocks has consistently been the slowest person in the Circus (although that hasn't necessarily been a disadvantage for her), Hazlett lost her main source of support last week, and Painter had to deal with a significant hamstring injury. I wanted to have faith in the Girls of the Grit, but I wrongly assumed their roadblocks were insurmountable.

I am so, so glad that Painter proved me wrong. She's spent the entirety of her tenure on American Grit in the background, letting the others take all the attention — but being quiet doesn't make her any less gritty!

More: American Grit's Tony Simmons is a one-man wonder

Painter wasn't alone as a victor, of course, but I don't think anybody doubted fellow Team Noah member Bouquin's ability to take home the win. I had him pegged as a shoo-in from the very beginning. Painter, on the other hand... I didn't even really notice her until a few weeks ago. If I'd paid more attention, I'd have observed a very, very talented woman with a whole lot of grit.

More: American Grit: Team Rorke's strategy was below the belt

Tonight's American Grit finale has changed how I perceive women on televised endurance competitions. I will not be so quick to discount female competitors in the future!

What did you think of Team Noah's American Grit victory? Comment and share your opinion below.

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