Nesconset's Domenick Abbate says of CBS' "The Challenge USA" competition:...

Nesconset's Domenick Abbate says of CBS' "The Challenge USA" competition: "You have butterflies in your stomach." Credit: Paramount / Laura Barisonzi

A Long Islander in Argentina represents for his community and tries to bring home $500,000 when Nesconset's Domenick Abbate takes on "The Challenge: USA," premiering Wednesday at 9:30 p.m on CBS.

"I got my call in December and I think we started to shoot in March” in that South American country, says Abbate, 43, who grew up in Levittown and the Smithtown village of Nesconset, where he still lives. "Just got back not too long ago," he continues in a phone interview.

This new spinoff of "The Challenge" — the physical and mental competition that's formed a franchise across CBS' parent-company stablemates MTV and Paramount+ — starts with 28 fan favorites from "The Amazing Race," "Big Brother," "Love Island" and "Survivor" — where Abbate reached second place in 2018. Each given $1,000, they face off one-on-one with a different paired competitor chosen by an algorithm in each episode, and try to build up their accounts by winning challenges or eliminating their opponents.

"You wake up on challenge days, you have butterflies in your stomach," Abbate describes. "You don't know what they're gonna put you through. Are you gonna jump off a building? Are you gonna whatever-it-may-be? The one thing you do know is that you're gonna convince yourself you have to do it, even though you probably don't want to do it. You came here to take on this adventure, you have to do it."

While his time on “Survivor" might have seemed similarly adventurous, what with being dropped onto a tropical island with few essentials and having to hunt, fish or forage for most of his food, Abbate says "The Challenge USA" is different. " 'Survivor' is a real intricate game of threading the needle — knowing who to talk to, how to speak to people in a certain way. Some of that definitely applies to 'The Challenge,' but for me, the real challenge was getting my mind in a place where no matter what they throw at me, I'm not going to turn it down."

He's a construction supervisor at his uncle's North Massapequa-based Tri-Messine Construction Company — "Anytime one of the utility companies has to rip the street up [in New York City], it's our job is to go back and restore the street to the way it was before." Abbate has an 8-year-old son and 12- and 14-year-old daughters with his wife, Kristin. After graduating from high school in 1996, he briefly attended Marist College and graduated with a bachelor's degree in finance from SUNY Old Westbury.

"My intention in life was not to be a construction supervisor. It just ended up that way," he says. "I was in sales for eight years before that, but now I sleep at night. I didn't sleep at night when I was in sales, that's for sure." And while his job is "not very exciting work, it's steady, pays the bills, good [benefits] package, good perks — I have a lot to be blessed with, with this job."

And with "The Challenge: USA" as well, since aside from everything else he met a kindred spirit. "There's a gentleman from [New] Jersey named Enzo [Palumbo, from "Big Brother" seasons 12 and 22]. He and I got along great — a paisan. Interesting fact: Enzo is short for Vincenzo, which is Vincent. And he has a son named Dominic. My name is Domenick and I have a son named Vincent. He's 44, I'm 43, and our sons are the same age."

But only one of the sons, if either, will have a half-million-dollar dad.

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