Archive for the ‘American Ninja Warrior 5’ Category

Top Stories from Venice Beach Opening Round

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

We saw some great stories and shocking moments in the Venice Beach city preliminary round competition.  Though this is certainly not a comprehensive treatment, for me these were the top stories of the opening round in Venice.

Top Veterans Deliver Top Performances, Advance – Although they got different degrees of TV coverage, a handful of the top long-time American Ninja Warrior veterans put in dominating performances.  Shane Daniels (2nd), David Campbell (3rd), James McGrath (5th), Brian Kretsch (7th), and Brent Steffensen (11th) showed that although there are many new amazing competitors on the scene, the traditional pantheon of top dogs are not ready to be displaced.

Derek Nakamoto Falls Early – Derek Nakamoto had a truly amazing rookie season performance in American Ninja Warrior 4 when he not only lit up the Southwest Regional Finals with the 7th fastest time in a stacked field, but blew everyone away with the fastest time in Stage 1 of the National Finals in Las Vegas.  Expectations were high for Derek entering American Ninja Warrior 5, and despite the motivation of his own traditional Japanese drum section playing for him on the course, he slipped up on the Floating Chains and fell to the gasps of the crowd.  Even the great ones fall early in competitions, proving that any obstacle can reach up and abruptly end your season.  I think despite the early exit in American Ninja Warrior 5, we’ll see great performances from this talented and focused 22 year old in many future seasons.

Flying Nunchucks Take Down Many – In what most likely proved to be the toughest single obstacle of any preliminary course in this year’s American Ninja Warrior, the Flying Nunchucks took down a long line of new and veteran competitors, including studs like Paul Darnell, Michael “Frosti” Zernow, Kyle Cochran, and Brian Orosco among others.

David Campbell Delivers the Goods – David Campbell is a legend in the Ninja Warrior crowd for his focus and discipline as a competitor, and for being one of the few American competitors who got to compete in Sasuke (Ninja Warrior Japan) multiple times before American Ninja Warrior even existed.  In American Ninja Warrior 3 he went farther than any other competitor, and fell on the second-to-last obstacle in Stage 1 of the National Finals last season.  One thing that sets David apart is his consistency, he rarely trips up early in competition, and this year was no exception as he delivered the 3rd fastest time.

The Frame Slider Takes Out Grandpa Ninja – Kelvin Antoine, one of the show’s true stars with fans and fellow competitors, delivered one of American Ninja Warrior 4’s most inspiring performances by being the oldest competitor at age 53 to ever complete the preliminary course.  His warm personality and positive attitude make him a great spokesman of the “age is just a number” philosophy that he often quotes.  Although his American Ninja Warrior 5 run ended early with a fall on just the second obstacle, the Frame Slider, it doesn’t change his inspiring message and journey, and I’m sure we’ll see Grandpa Ninja back on the course defying his age often in the future.

Justin Walcker Overcomes Tourette’s, Dominates Course – In one of my favorite inspiring story-lines of last season and this one is Justin Walcker, who has overcome Tourette’s syndrome to be a top competitor in American Ninja Warrior.  American Ninja Warrior 4 was his rookie season where he advanced to the National Finals in Vegas.  This year in the prelims in Venice Justin proved that last season was no fluke by blasting through the course to hit the buzzer.  I predict we’ll see Justin excel for many seasons to come, and we should all be reminded by him that with focus and determination, many seemingly insurmountable challenges can be overcome.

Second Early Exit in a Row for Brian Orosco – Brian Orosco is a legitimate legend in the Ninja Warrior and parkour communities, having competed multiple times at Mt Midoriyama in Japan as well as being the star in the lone season of the short-lived (but pretty awesome) Jump City.  Last season he had a surprisingly early exit when he fell on just the fourth obstacle, the Jump Hang, in the opening regional round.  This year he made it one obstacle further to the Flying Nunchuks, a brutal obstacle where he was just one of many to fail this difficult vertical grip test, handing Brian his second early-exit in a row.

Cowboy Finishes Course, Hat Doesn’t Budge – Lance Pekus, a rancher from Salmon, Idaho, cruised through the course with his cowboy hat on without it ever falling off.  With so many amazing parkour studs, rock climbers, and stuntmen dominating American Ninja Warrior, I love seeing people of unusual backgrounds and training situations doing well on the course, it reminds the rest of us “common folks” that people of any background have a chance if they have the heart and determination to compete.

Dr. Noah Kaufman Fixes Shoulders, Destroys Courses, Gets Misquoted on Parkour – We all cringed when we saw American Ninja Warrior veteran Alan Connealy take an awkward fall out of the Frame Slider and dislocate his shoulder.  Fortunately for him Noah Kaufman, a fellow competitor waiting his turn to run, happened to be an Emergency Room doctor, and he was able to come over and deftly pop Alan’s shoulder back into place to a reward of a gasp of “ohhh, nice!” from Alan.  Noah then took his turn on the course and demonstrated a rock-climber’s strength by easily handling the Flying Nunchucks and finishing the course with ease.  In his interview Noah shared his belief that the first American Ninja Warrior would be a rock-climber, something I’ve also said for years – ridiculous grip strength and stamina will be required to make it through the late stages of Mt Midoriyama.  Apparently Noah was misquoted in the telecast when Matt Iseman said he called “parkour guys wusses” which was in fact was a joke between Noah and a parkour friend of his.  This has unfairly made Noah a flash-point in a newly created Parkour v Rock-Climbing debate, and I’ve heard directly from Noah that he has great respect for the Parkour athletes.

Jesse La Flair Floats to Top Time – I must admit, I love watching Jesse La Flair.  So smooth and effortless, so skilled.  Probably why his parkour videos on YouTube are so watched with millions of views.  He continued that theme by breezing through the course in the Venice prelims to the top time and making us all wonder what he’ll do next.

Badass Chicks on the Rise – Watchout men, there is no doubt that there are many badass women ninjas on the rise and getting stronger.  Jessie Graff made history be being the first woman to ever advance to the regional/city finals round, and Erika Schwarz and Kacy Catanzaro delivered inspiring strong performances making it all the way to the Flying Nunchuks.  I believe American Ninja Warrior 5 is the year that the women ninjas put the men on notice that they are for real, and American Ninja Warrior 6 will be witness to a true monster breakout performance by one of the many strong women ninjas in our midst.  My money says that American Ninja Warrior 6 is the season where we see a woman finish the preliminary course for the first time and smash that buzzer.

Baltimore Ninjas, including me, on Deck Sunday and Monday Nights

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

With a great premiere of American Ninja Warrior 5 last weekend in the books covering the opening round of the region held in Venice, we turn our attention to the episodes on Sunday night on G4 and Monday night on NBC focused on the opening regional round held in Baltimore.  Baltimore was the second of four regional cities in this year’s American Ninja Warrior, was the region where your humble host competed, and was an epic experience and a ton of fun.  For me it was particularly special because I was raised in Maryland and my 71 year old mother and father, along with my oldest sister, were able to come and watch the competition in person and experience the scale and intensity of it live (the whole course is much bigger and grander in person).  I shared what I could about my experience in my fairly emotional Thank You Baltimore blog I wrote immediately upon my return from the competition (we are bound by non-disclosure concerning our performance until after the airing of the show).  I won’t cover the same sentiments and thoughts here, but if you are curious about the experience as a competitor, I’d encourage you to read that piece.

Who knows if they’ll show any or all of my run this season?  I got zero airtime when American Ninja Warrior 2 and 3 were shown.  I got a lot of airtime last season in American Ninja Warrior 4 when I was a featured competitor in the episodes that covered the opening round in Dallas, the regional finals in Dallas (where I was the oldest competitor to advance), and then the “Best of 2012” mini-series they ran earlier this year.  They seemed to dig my story of being a 40 year old father-of-three, and how I drove for several days with my whole family just to have a shot to compete as a walkon (I didn’t get a guaranteed invite last year).  But this year…who knows?  My family and friends seem to think I am a lock to be shown again, but I think they are being optimistic and naive, yesterday’s star is today’s old news.

In any case, whether I am shown or not, I was absolutely thrilled to get another shot to compete, particularly when they got around 10,000 submissions for what was only about 400 guaranteed invites this season.  I also think whether they show me or not, the viewers will get to see some amazing competitors with insane athleticism and great personal stories that are deserving of the shot and the airtime.  Thank you everyone for your support, and I hope you enjoy the episodes on Sunday night on G4 and Monday night on NBC.  Once the episode is aired, I’ll write a blog about my run, as you’d expect me to 😉

American Ninja Warrior 5 Premieres – Venice on Deck

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

The American Ninja Warrior 5 season premieres tonight, and kicks off the summer schedule. The airing format for this season is both sorta the same and slightly different from last season. What’s the same is that G4 and NBC will be sharing the show again, with G4 airing an episode on Sunday night and NBC airing an episode on Monday night, both in primetime. What’s different about this season is that G4 and NBC will each present a different edited version of the same region/round in a given Sunday-Monday episode pairing on back-to-back days.

This season there are only 4 regions, each representing different geographic coverage: Venice, Baltimore, Miami, and Denver. The opening regional round of Venice airs tonight on G4 and tomorrow night on NBC, and hosts some of the best known American Ninja Warrior competitors like David Campbell, James McGrath, and Brent Steffenson among others. It also hosts a few of the lesser-known American Ninja Warrior veterans who fellow competitors know have the goods, and are a threat for a breakout performance this season, like Paul Darnell and Brian Kretsch.

Next week’s coverage will be of the Baltimore region, where yours truly competed. Set your DVRs for this season!

My American Ninja Warrior 5 Submission Video

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

With us in “quiet time” before the airing of American Ninja Warrior 5 this summer, which starts in just a few weeks, I’m hamstrung in terms of what I can write about under the non-disclosure agreement. So I’m just going to put my submission video for ANW5 up again.

They specifically told us to “tell our story” and not just show action scenes, so that’s the reason why this might seem a bit verbose. I’ve tried to still show some good action clips to demonstrate that I still have some real obstacle course chops despite my advancing age 😉

Flavors of Ninjas Post-Regional Rounds

Friday, June 7th, 2013

With the regional competitions all done, and the National Finals in Las Vegas just two weeks ago, pretty much all ninjas fall into the below categories at the moment. Here is the categorization as I see them, and some thoughts on each:

The Deserving – These studs came, they saw, and they kicked ninja ass. They advanced from the regional round to the regional finals, and advanced from the regional finals to the National Finals in 2 weeks in Vegas. They are living the dream, and are super-stoked to compete in Vegas, and are most likely twitching in anticipation to get their shot at immortality just around the corner.

The Lucky – These are the lucky competitors who failed in either the regional or regional finals round and didn’t advance through competition to the National Finals, but have been awarded a wildcard to compete in the National Finals in Vegas in 2 weeks nonetheless. They’ve won a Golden Ticket (Willy Wonka reference), and will get to step to the line in Vegas for their own shot at immortality. In last season, which was the first that they used the wildcard format, they used wildcards to invite fan favorites like Grandpa Ninja and Ryoga Vee, as well as a number of the top women (no woman advanced to the National Finals in ANW4 through competition). We’ll see when the show airs how production decided to use their wildcard spots this year. These wildcard invites are the envy of everybody else who falls into one of the other categories below.

The Bummed – These are the many many competitors who competed and didn’t achieve their goals of advancing to Vegas. Maybe they fell on the very first obstacle, or maybe they fell just inches from advancing beyond the Regional Final round to the Nationals Final (this was me last year), or some place in between. They held the belief in their hearts stepping onto the course that this would be their year to make it to Vegas and achieve glory, and they fell short. Maybe they also held out hope they’d get a wildcard invite, but the phone never rang. This category is composed of most of the ANW competitors who stepped onto the course in the regional rounds this year.

The Super-Bummed – These are the poor souls who really wanted to compete but never got a chance. Maybe their video didn’t get accepted, and/or maybe they tried to line up for a couple of days as a walkon and never got their shot. This is the group that I feel the worst for. They trained and dreamed all year long, and were denied a chance to prove themselves. This season, American Ninja Warrior 5, was BY FAR the hardest season to get a run slot, a function of it “going network” and American Ninja Warrior 4 being called up from the AA minor leagues of G4 to the major leagues of primetime NBC. Allegedly there were over 10,000 video submissions for this season, and only around 400 guaranteed run invites. Maybe another 100, if that, got walkon spots out of maybe a thousand lining up in the 4 regions. These guys are super-bummed to have never gotten a chance to toe the line.

The Happy – This is a relative rarity, but there are some competitors who just walked away happy from their performance despite not advancing to the National Finals. Maybe they exceeded their modest expectations, maybe they were thrilled to just get a chance, or maybe they are just grounded Zen people. But these folks walked away with a big grin on their faces and are looking forward to doing it again, and better, next season.

So…did I miss any obvious categories? Tell me what kind of ninja are you?