The Cleveland City Qualifier was the first course this season not to feature an obstacle submitted as part of last year's obstacle design challenge, which is open again this year! I'm sure that was a relief to the Cleveland ninjas because fan creations have been Ninja Killers this season! In some form or fashion they've been mentioned in every one of these pieces so far this season.
The Cleveland ninjas weren't in the clear just yet, instead of a fan created Ninja Killer, they faced the obstacle which was the second most devastating Ninja Killer in the Season 8's City Qualifiers, the I-Beam. Making things even harder for the Cleveland Ninjas was that they faced not the "I-Beam Cross," but instead the I-Beam Gap.
This incarnation had all the tricky parts of the I-Beam Cross, narrow ledges, missing pieces, and of course that intense 90 degree flip. The I-Beam's most difficult move requires ninjas who are hanging horizontally (with both their hands and feet engaged) on the underside of a beam (with 2 inch ledges on both sides) to contort their body in such a way that they can shimmy upward, so they end standing on the beam's ledges.
Most ninjas would be able to horizontally traverse the underside of a beam with two inch ledges on both sides without much problem. Although 2 inches doesn't sound like much, it is plenty for ninjas to wedge their feet in and take a lot of their weight off of their hands. Again, the real tricky part of I-Beam Cross is that 90 degree turn. Pulling straight up doesn't work because the ninjas bodies are underneath the beam and they're just pulling them into the beam.
However, by pushing one leg into the beam and extending another along the beam ninjas are able to shift their weight, enough to get most of their body past the turn. This was the easiest technique, but even it required a ton of body awareness and strength. Some ninjas simply let their bodies hang, thus they were no longer blocked by the beam, and muscled their way up, climbing hand over hand using the sides of the beam in what were now 2 inch vertical grips, which was possible for some, but also an extremely impressive feat of strength.
All that is what ninjas had to do in order to complete the I-Beam Cross. I-Beam Gap ratcheted up the difficulty and included a 6 foot transfer (I'm guessing here, but I don't think it was more than this because James McGrath was able to place one leg on both beams and complete the obstacle without jumping) from one vertical beam with 2 inch ledges on both sides to another. This gap required ninjas to turn 180 degrees in the air and catch the beam on the other side. A scary move that is probably not something they've ever practiced. Those who pushed off with their feet, and made first contact on the second side with their feet, quickly followed by their hands were able to get through this new addition to the old Ninja Killer.
Last year in the Los Angeles City Qualifier, I-Beam Cross had a completion percentage of 59.38% (19/32). In Season 7 when it made its debut in the Military (San Pedro) Region it had a completion percentage of 38.45% (10/26). Of obstacles with 50 or more aired/annotated attempts only Rolling Thunder has a lower multi-season combined completion percentage, 42.19% (27/64) than the two seasons of I-Beam Cross, 50% (29/58).
Despite the added transfer, the I-Beam Gap fell perfectly in line with the two previous I-Beam obstacles. Using the aired/annotated results I-Beam Gap's completion percentage was 50% (15/30). When you use all the data according to Nikki Lee's "What you didn't see" article the completion percentage was marginally lower, 48.39% (16/31).
This obstacle is very similar to a long time Stage 3 obstacle, both in Sasuke and American Ninja Warrior known as the Spider Flip. On American Ninja Warrior only Brian Arnold attempted and completed it in Season 5. In all other seasons when it appeared no Americans got far enough to attempt it.
Ring Jump was also a Ninja Killer eliminating 29 ninjas, according to Nikki Lee's "What you didn't see" article (12 during the episode). Ring Jump made its debut last year interestingly also in the LA City Qualifier, where it only eliminated 5 ninjas during the episode.
On last year's Ring Jump ninjas were given two rings for the ascent, which made things much easier. Instead of having to kip their entire body plus the awkward 5 pound 2.5 foot ring (not 100% on those dimensions) ninjas could simple shift their weight and lift the ring over the pegs. Additionally, the order and placement of the pegs was much different than last year. With several more large pegs and big gaps on the ninjas’ climb.
These changes meant ninjas were spending a lot more time kipping, throwing and ultimately taking a lot more impact as they landed each move on the Ring Jump. These more taxing moves are why Ring Jump went from one of the easier obstacles last season, to the obstacle with the 5th most eliminations this season. The obstacles with more eliminations this season are: Tick Tock - 43, Wingnuts - 40, Crank It Up - 35, and Broken Pipes 33.