Posts Tagged ‘Levi Meeuwenberg’

Season Finale of American Ninja Warrior 4

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Tonight we find out…is anybody going to be able to complete Stages 2, 3 and 4 in the national finals to become the first American Ninja Warrior? 24 amazing athletes step to the line at the beginning of Stage 2 to get their crack at immortality. Although many of the best obstacle course runners in the world have fallen already in the regionals, regional finals, or Stage 1 of the national finals, like Levi Meeuwenberg, Brian Orosco, and David Campbell, there are many strong seasoned competitors still alive like Brent Steffensen, David “Flip” Rodriguez, Travis Rosen, Chris Wilczewski, and newcomer Derek Nakamoto (see previous post for complete list). Tune in tonight to find out if we’ll crown the first American Ninja Warrior!

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My Regional Run – The Voices in My Head

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Some of you may have tuned in and watched the Midwest regionals last night on G4.  For the first time in 3 seasons they aired my run and did a nice little background piece about this crazy-ass 40 year old who drives for days with his kids in tow just for a chance to get a walkon spot.  In the piece they showed some nice shots of my training, included a shout-out to this blog (surprisingly), and aired a couple of adorable shots of my cute little kids!

Having to go the walkon route, and not knowing I was going to actually get a shot to run until pretty soon before I was standing on the starting line, I was psyched just to get my crack at the course.  Ask any ninja what he or she most fundamentally wants, and it’s just the chance to try.  Of course, we all want to go far into the course, but the difference between the binary world of “getting to try” versus “not getting to try” is the biggest gulf in potential experiences.  So I was just thrilled to get a shot as a walkon and to be standing at that starting line.

Although it was edited to look like I ran late in the day, I was actually the 5th person to attempt the course that day.  You see, they usually have a handful of walkons try the course out first for any “bugs” or flaws in it before wasting the attempts of the guaranteed runners.  Two of the three runners right before me fell on the Quad Steps, and knowing that super-stud Levi Meeuwenberg had fallen on the Quad Steps in Venice I was more than a little nervous about sharing their fate.

These are my obstacle-by-obstacle notes of my opening round regional run, complete with a running commentary of the Voices in My Head that chattered at me while I was on the course:

QUAD STEPS – As I mentioned, I was more than a little concerned about the Quad Steps.  But when the buzzer sounded I coasted right through them using the cautious “triple step” technique.  I remember hitting the platform at the end and thinking “Thank God!  At least you didn’t fall on the first obstacle!  It’s all gravy from here.”

LOG GRIP – I wasn’t too concerned about the Log Grip.  I took my time and made certain I grabbed the divots that I had planned to use, and then just jumped and held on.  It’s important to get a grip where you still have some bend in your arms to absorb the shock of the drops.

BRIDGE OF BLADES – I wasn’t too concerned about this obstacle either.  When the blades are oriented as an X you can just scoot right down the center pretty briskly without any problems.  This is how the blades were set in American Ninja Warrior 3 (last year) and 4 (this year).  In American Ninja Warrior 2, the blades were set up as a + and many many good ninjas fell that day (I got past it, but fell on the next obstacle…the dreaded Spider Wall!).  But for American Ninja Warrior 4 this year I just scooted right down the middle without much hesitation.

JUMP-HANG – I was more than a little wary of the Jump Hang.  It gets a number of competitors to fall, and sometimes quite spectacularly.  Even top competitors will occasionally miss it.  But I feel pretty good on the mini-tramp and just cleared my mind, focused, and hammered that mini-tramp for a pretty good jump up to the 2nd highest strand of rope.  I got caught up a bit going over the top and I remember thinking “Are you going to get stuck here?  That would be embarrassing…” but I got over in a few seconds with a bit of ungainly thrashing.

CURTAIN SLIDE – I was quite worried about this obstacle.  It was new to the American Ninja Warrior competition and I think I was the second person in ANW history to ever try it out.  I figured the keys to the technique were getting a lot of momentum jumping off the platform onto the first curtain to get it to really slide, and then transition to the 2nd curtain, which was fixed (not sliding), with the very first swing.  I did exactly that and when I transitioned to the 2nd curtain I heard the crowd gasp and I thought “Am I about to fall here and I don’t even know it?” and then hiked my legs up and around the bottom of the curtain.  I made a quick transition to the 3rd curtain and then the platform after that.  Now that I have seen my run on TV, I know why the crowd gasped!  I was pretty close to touching the side of the obstacle with my feet as I was swinging around which would have disqualified me, and then after that I almost touched the water.  Yikes!  Definitely got a cue from the crowd noise there.

WARPED WALL – Prior to that day I had only practiced on a Warped Wall once in my life a couple of years ago.  It had been a smaller wall but I had gotten up it maybe 2 out of 3 tries, even when tired.  But this was a bigger wall, I was gassed from the previous 5 obstacles, and the springs in my legs that I used to use for high-jumping and dunking are a shadow of their former selves 😉  No excuses…I should have gotten up that wall, and I know I can get up that wall.  Just that day I missed.  Watching it on TV I realized that my first two attempts went badly because I was anticipating the curve of the wall before I got there…you can see me almost step up in an awkward step right as I get to the curve.  My final attempt was my closest, I actually got on fingertip over the top, but I was too out of gas by then.  So close, yet so far!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed that in my head.

Since I was the 5th runner of the day, I spent the whole day in the qualifier pit with 30 chairs for the 30 people who would advance to the regional finals.  I was SURE I would get bumped out at some point, but was just happy to have run and to have done as relatively well as I had.  Plus, it was super-fun to hang out all day in the qualifier pit with some other cool ninjas like David Gabel, Steven Volko, and Cade Halada among others.  Then, suddenly, the day was over, and I was sitting in the 29th seat, meaning I was going to advance.  I was only one seat from the “hot seat” as the guy about to be bumped, and I was already scripting my farewell speech in my head for the camera when they told us the day was done and we were the Midwest regional finalists!  Pretty dope!  Even doper…I was the oldest competitor to make it to the regional finals, which is some mad street cred among my middle-aged peer group 😉

Thanks to everybody for their support, and I hope you tune in for the regional finals and have a blast!

Top Stories from the Southwest Region

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Wow.  Just finished watching the Southwest regionals and regional finals.  Great production quality for the show, and many memorable moments and impressions.  Here are my personal highlights of the Southwest:

Levi the Legend Goes Down! – There is a reason why Levi Meeuwenberg is known as Levi the Legend, for both his Ninja Warrior and parkour/free-running achievements.  Nobody does such amazing feats with such cool and grace.  So when he fell on the very first obstacle the Quad Steps in the opening round in the Southwest regional, nothing could have shocked fans or competitors more.  I can tell you that every competitor in ANW4 across all the regions knew that Levi had fallen on the Quad Steps, and that freaked everybody the F-out about that obstacle, because if Levi can fall on the Quad Steps, ANYBODY can fall on the Quad Steps.

Grandpa Ninja is a Stud – There is no denying it, Kelvin “Grandpa Ninja” Antoine is a stud.  We first met at ANW2 in 2010, our first season for both of us, and I’ve grown to have a great admiration for his character and his determination.  Every season he’s done better than the last, this year advancing to the regional finals where he had a great run.  I don’t think anybody would bet against him doing even better next year at age 54!

The Rocket Takes Off – Evan “Rocket” Dollard shook off a near fall in the regionals on the Spinning Log to finish the course and then followed that in the regional finals with a performance that showed why he’s called The Rocket clocking in with the fastest time.  Not only is Evan truly one of the top competitors in American Ninja Warrior and a legit threat to win it all, but he’s also one of the favorites of fellow competitors for his easy charisma and love of a good laugh.  Oh…and he won American Gladiator once-upon-a-time, which is pretty dope.

Ryan “Cloud” Cousins Falls – Shocking observers who know Cloud for the ease and speed of his every movement, he slipped on that tricky Spinning Log and went down.  Ryan isn’t super well-known among Ninja Warrior fans, but competitors know him to be supremely skilled and seeing him fall on the Spinning Log was a bit of a shock for his fellow competitors who are used to seeing him flow past almost every obstacle in his path.

Jesse La Flair Bursts on the Scene – In his first year on American Ninja Warrior, Jesse La Flair of YouTube parkour fame absolutely smoked the course in both the regionals and regional finals, attacking every obstacle with speed, confidence and determination.  A new American Ninja Warrior star is born.

Kole Stevens Gets Redemption – From falling on the Quad Steps last year to completing the course in the Southwest regional finals and advancing to the Las Vegas Finals, Kole Stevens lived the dream of every competitor who ever bit it on the first obstacle of the course by coming back and smoking it the next year.  He didn’t doubt himself, trained like a demon, and blasted through both the regionals and regional finals to make it to the first finals ever in Las Vegas.  Congrats to Kole.

Frosti Advances – Composite showman and professional parkour stud Michael “Frosti” Zernow blew through the regionals and was cruising through the regional finals until a tough fall on the Arm Rings in the regional finals momentarily derailed the train, but he still advanced to the Las Vegas finals.  Frosti is a fan favorite, and his work with young kids inspiring them to get off the couch and exercise is a reason to root for this flamboyant competitor.

Brent Steffensen Thrives, Barely Survives – Everybody who watches American Ninja Warrior knows Brent to be one of the very strongest competitors, so no one was surprised when he cruised through the regionals with the fastest time.  What did surprise people was Brent failing on his first two Warped Wall attempts in the regional finals and barely getting it in his third attempt to advance to the Las Vegas Finals.  Still, Brent is always a danger to win it all.

Wipeouts Galore – As always, some fabulous guffaw-inducing and cringe-worthy wipeouts.  Never fails to satisfy 😉

Those are just my personal highlights of the Southwest region, what were yours?

Southwest on Deck

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The season of American Ninja Warrior 4 starts tonight on G4 and continues tomorrow night on NBC showing the Southwest regional and regional final rounds.  The Southwest region is chock-full of legitimate ninja studs and is arguably the strongest of the six regions in this year’s competition.  Including top competitors Levi Meeuwenberg, Shane Daniels, Luci Romberg, and Brian Orosco from the LA-based Tempest Academy, as well as other top guns and fan favorites like Kelvin “Grandpa Ninja” Antoine, Brent Steffensen, Dorian Cedars, Michael “Frosti” Zeroniow, Ryan “Cloud” Cousins, and Evan “Rocket” Dollard….the Southwest region episodes are sure to amaze, inspire and shock!

Click LIKE if you are eagerly anticipating, watching and/or digging the Southwest region episodes this week!  I’ll post some results and commentary when everything is aired and public.

The Rise of Obstacle Course Competitions

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Longtime fans of Ninja Warrior have no doubt noticed the rise of obstacle course competitions in the last few years, from our own beloved American Ninja Warrior and Wipeout on television, to local events like the Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. Here’s a great article in the Washington Post (still my favorite newspaper from having grown up in DC), which has an insightful breakdown on this phenomena.

One new thing I did learn from this article is that Ninja Warrior superstar Levi Meeuwenberg recently relocated to Washington DC and is teaching at Primal Fitness, including specific classes for those wanting to train for Ninja Warrior. I was a little shocked to hear this as Tempest Freerunning Academy, for which Levi is one of the main people (we saw Levi as the leader of Tempest Freerunning on G4’s Jump City until he got injured), recently opened an incredible gym in LA. I figured Levi would be rocking that and continuing his stunt work in LA, but then what the hell do I know?

One thing I do know is that obstacle course competitions of all variations, on TV and in people’s backyards, are becoming more popular than ever, tapping into our inner little kids as well as providing a sick cross-training full body workout.