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American Ninja Warrior San Antonio City Finals recap: A vicious enemy and a lone survivor

Only one Ninja had the endurance to survive the whole course, just barely.

Felicia Graham/NBC

The American Ninja Warrior San Antonio City Finals was an emotional experience. While four Ninjas would make it to the final obstacle, only one would be able to hit the buzzer. Seeing the competitors make it that far, but not complete the course, is always a mix of exhilaration and defeat.

One competitor celebrated her first trip to the top of the Warped Wall in competition, while, in an ironic twist, a legend wouldn’t be able to complete the obstacle. A Ninja nemesis on the course would strike the competitors out again and again.

Here’s what you missed:

Course completions: 1

Ninjas taken out by the obstacle, Hourglass Drop: 16 (Ack!)

Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Spinball Wizard: 2

The Course:

  • Floating Steps
  • Tick Tock
  • Spinning Bridge
  • Sky Hooks
  • Pipefitter
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Hourglass Drop
  • Spinball Wizard
  • Elevator Climb

What changed from Qualifying: The Sky Hooks had a longer final dismount, increased to 11 feet.

Quick Highlights:

  • Nate Burkhalter came all the way from Norway to compete this season. He would fall at the Hourglass Drop, kicking off a loooong night of fails at that obstacle.
  • Abel Gonzalez also made it to the Hourglass Drop, but was stopped there.
  • Karsten Williams was the first Ninja we saw survive the Hourglass Drop, but then the next obstacle, the Spinball Wizard, ended his run.
  • Thomas Stillings came out swinging. In a dominating run, he made it all the way to the last obstacle. But the Elevator Climb sapped his strength and he would not hit the buzzer.
  • Jonathan Horton completed the course in Qualifying, but the Olympic gymnast was taken out by the Hourglass Drop in the City Finals.
  • Tremayne Dortch also fell at the, you guessed it, Hourglass Drop.
  • Kacy Catanzaro’s run took her past the Sky Hooks that defeated her in Qualifying. She made it all the way to the Warped Wall, but couldn’t get up the 14.5 foot version.
  • Kenny Niemitalo had a lot to celebrate during his run. His young daughter watched on the sidelines along with the donor who’d given her a lifesaving kidney. They all got to see Kenny make it to the Hourglass Drop.
  • Nicolas Coolridge swept through the course with ease. He only looked strained on the Elevator Climb, which eventually prevented him from completing the course.
  • Barclay Stockett returned for another firecracker run. She defeated the Warped Wall and the Salmon Ladder. Our good friend Hourglass Drop would strike again though, ending her run.
  • Brent Steffensen is having a great season. After hitting the buzzer in Qualifying, he also made it all the way to the Elevator Climb.
  • Daniel Gil was the only Ninja who could stand up to every single obstacle on the course. He made it to the very top of the Elevator Climb and almost fell. He manage to save himself and became the only finisher of the night.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

Daniel Gil is just phenomenal on the American Ninja Warrior course. He almost always delivers a thrilling run with a calm grin on his face. His San Antonio City Finals run was no different. Until it was.

As Daniel reached the top of the Elevator Climb, he flipped his legs over the platform, but suddenly found himself unable to get the rest of his body to follow. He tried to prop one of his elbows on a handle, which was a terrible idea, as the handles are designed to move and almost immediately began to drop away.

For a brief, horrifying moment, it looked like Daniel was going to fall while literally feet away from the buzzer. For the first time, Daniel looked like he was at a loss as to what he should do.

Luckily, he grabbed the truss of the platform at the last moment, completing the run. But if that near-miss didn’t cause you to panic, you’ve got nerves of steel.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

Seeing Kacy Catanzaro slide down the Warped Wall on her unsuccessful third attempt was painful. Kacy is the first woman to have completed the Warped Wall in competition. It’s one of her claims to fame that fans love her for.

Kacy is very open that the pressure placed on her after her wild success on the show has impacted her. This season, she’s relaxed and refocused. It was fantastic to see her beat the Sky Hooks and the Pipefitter. It seemed like the Warped Wall would be a glorious validation for Kacy.

At first it seemed unbelievable that she was struggling with the obstacle. Surely it was just a fluke on her first attempt and she’d be able to fix it. On her second attempt, her fingers were just at the edge. As the the third and final attempt came and went, there was definitely a sense of disappointment.

But Kacy handled it well, staying calm and collected during her post-run interview. All in all, it was one of the stronger runs of the night from a female athlete and cleared her path to Vegas. And she will always have her well-earned legacy.

Lesson of the Night:

Ninjas really, really hate trampolines.

It’s almost a joke in the Ninja community. Trampolines are the enemy. The Hourglass Drop lovingly proved that over and over and over again.

A whopping 16 Ninjas were defeated by the obstacle. Many of them, specifically, by bad bounces on the trampoline that propelled them up to the boards. What makes this piece of equipment so difficult? Trampolines are finicky, jarring and unpredictable. A Ninja can train all they want on a trampoline at home, but it will never have the exact same bounce and resistance as the one they face on the course.

It’s just one more example of the brutality of the course. You can train. You can be at the peak of physical fitness. You can be ready for anything. But the course will find a way to pick out your Achilles’ Heel, and for many, that’s the trampoline.

Next Up:

American Ninja Warrior returns to Daytona on August 7 and it’s going to be one heck of a ride. Drew Drechsel and Jessie Graff will try to make their way back to the National Finals on an excruciatingly hard course.