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USA vs the world recap: A tooth and nail fight to the very last moments

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Unexpected falls, shifts in the leaderboard, and a final fight to the finish. This special had it all!

David Becker/NBC

After months of waiting, American Ninja Warrior fans were in for a treat. This year’s USA vs the World delivered shocking falls, upset wins and a conclusion no one could predict. The episode was a whopping three hours long, so let’s dive right into what we saw.

Teams:

For the first time, four teams took part in the fifth annual competition:

  • Team Asia
    Tomohiro Kawaguchi, Yusuke Mormoto, Thuc Le, Yosua Zaluku
  • Team Latin America
    Danee Marmolejo, Marco Jubes, Sebastian Prieto, Karl Fow
  • Team USA
    Joe Moravsky, Najee Richardson, Sean Bryan, Drew Drechsel
  • Team Europe
    Sean McColl, Sergio Verdasco, Alexander Mars, Ossur Eiriksfoss

Team USA went into it looking to defend the title they claimed in last year’s USA vs the World. But three other teams were coming for the crown. Europe had lost two years in a row, so they were chomping at the bit for revenge. Latin American had put their bumpy rookie year behind them and returned with more experience. Team Asia wanted to bring the trophy back to the place where the Ninja Warrior/Sasuke sport all began.

Also special this year, the competition was guaranteed to take place on all four stages of the Las Vegas National Finals. That meant the looming Mt. Midoriyama final 80-foot climb was in play. The last two teams in the competition would race on the tower.

David Becker/NBC

Points breakdown:

  • There were two heats on Stages One and Two.
  • One athlete from each team ran in each heat. Whoever went the farthest the fastest earned three points.
  • Second place earned two points.
  • Third place got 1 point.
  • Only the three highest scoring teams advanced to Stage Three.
  • The final two teams advanced to Stage Four for the climb off.

STAGE ONE

Obstacles:

  • Snake Run
  • Propeller Bar
  • Double Dipper
  • Jumping Spider
  • Parkour Run
  • Warped Wall
  • Domino Pipes
  • Flying Squirrel

Heat one:

  • Team USA - Joe Moravsky:

Joe went into this competition with arguably the best advantages. He was the last Ninja standing on season nine of American Ninja Warrior and this was his third year on Team USA. Everything looked perfect as he bounded through the Stage One obstacles, even skipping the rope on Parkour Run. But suddenly, in the blink of an eye, he was OUT on the Domino Pipes!

  • Team Europe - Ossur Eiriksfoss:

Ossur’s experience stemmed from his time on the Danish Team Ninja Warrior. He went into Stage One needing to pass the Warped Wall in under 42 seconds to bump Team USA down. He was looking strong for a first timer when a bad landing sent him out on the Spider Jump.

  • Team Asia - Thuc Le:

Thuc was a competitor on Vietnam’s Ninja Warrior. He ran quickly through the first two obstacles but fell on the Double Dipper landing.

  • Team Latin America - Karl Fow:

Karl competed in last year’s USA vs the World, so he understood how tough this would be. He needed to get past the Domino Pipes to win the heat. He methodically attacked the obstacles. The Warped Wall gave him no issues. As he beat the Domino Pipes, he edged out Joe Moravsky, and continued on to hit the buzzer!

Heat winner: Team Latin America

Scoreboard:

Heat two:

  • Team Asia - Tomohiro Kawaguchi:

Tomohiro is a Ninja legend, having competed on nine seasons of Sasuke in Japan. On Stage One, he slipped on the Spider Jump but saved himself. He chose to use the rope on Parkour Run from an odd angle and then missed the first attempt on Warped Wall, adding to his time. He got it on the next grab, but then fell at the Domino Pipes.

  • Team Latin America - Danee Marmolejo:

Danee had also competed last year, and he was looking confident. He nailed the Spider Jump and skipped the rope on Parkour Run. He was smooth on the Domino Pipes and mastered the Flying Squirrel. He completed the course with a time of 2:53:16.

  • Team Europe - Sergio Verdasco:

Sergio was the last Ninja standing in Ninja Warrior Spain, bringing that experience with him to this competition. He had a bit of a bad leap into the Spider Jump but still hung on to the landing. After Parkour Run, he was pacing faster than Team Asia. He bolted from the Domino Pipes right to the flying squirrel, finishing at 2:02:21, and taking the lead in this heat.

  • Team USA - Drew Drechsel:

If Team USA wanted to win the heat, Drew would have to move fast and he knew it. He skipped some of the steps on Snake Run. He flew through the Spider Jump. He had a little slip on Parkour Run, but easily recovered, not even pausing before the Warped Wall. He made short work of the rest of the course, hitting the buzzer at 1:48:44.

Heat winner: Team USA

Scoreboard:


STAGE TWO

Obstacles:

  • Giant Ring Swing
  • Criss Cross Salmon Ladder
  • Wave Runner
  • Swing Surfer
  • Wingnut Alley
  • Wall Flip (100, 125, and 150 LBS)

Unlike in regular competition, there was no time limit on this stage. The furthest the fastest would win the three points.

Heat one:

  • Team Europe: Alexander Mars:

This was Alexander’s third time in USA vs the World. Also, he was the last Ninja standing in Ninja Warrior Sweden and had competed on Sasuke, giving him a wealth of experience. He was looking good through the Ring Swing. No issue on the Salmon Ladder. Which is why it was so surprising when he fell at the very end of the Wave Runner, only the third obstacle.

  • Team USA - Sean Bryan:

Sean had beaten this stage before in the regular season, leaving him prepared for what laid ahead. He finished the Salmon Ladder in just three huge moves. He beat out Europe when he finished the Wave Runner. Then he was back at the terrifying Wingnut Alley. Sean was the first to defeat this obstacle in the regular season, so we had high hopes.

But in a terrifying moment, he landed off to one side, slammed his back and rolled into the water. It looked like he might be hurt, but the medics cleared him to continue in the competition.

  • Team Asia - Yusuke Morimoto:

Yusuke looked like the ringer of Team Asia. He is a lifelong Sasuke fan, who had achieved Total Victory on the show. He also happens to be the first person to ever beat Stage Three of the National Finals. He was strong through the first two obstacles and bumped Europe down when he finished the Wave Runner. However, he misjudged the Swing Surfer and ended his run there.

  • Team Latin America - Marco Jubes:

This was Marco’s first time on a Ninja course, but he is an accomplished rock climber. He looked confident on the Salmon Ladder and even passed the Wave Runner. He also went out on the Swing Surfer, but he still earned one point for the team.

Heat winner: Team USA

Scoreboard:

Heat two:

The pressure was really ramping up now. The team at the bottom after this heat was out of the competition.

  • Team Asia - Yosua Zalukhu:

Yosua was the last Ninja standing in Sasuke Ninja Warrior Indonesia and is a climber, which would hopefully work to his advantage. However, he got a wonky start on the Ring Swing, swaying back and forth and getting hung up at one point. He did manage to right himself, but then had trouble getting to the landing pad. He made it but looked exhausted. He battled through the Salmon Ladder before it all caught up to him and he fell on the Wave Runner.

  • Team Latin America - Sebastian Prieto:

Sebastian is the National Rock Climbing Champion in Columbia, so his grip strength was ready for this. But once more, there was trouble on the Ring Swing. When he finally dismounted, he’d been hanging there for almost a minute. After a struggle on the Salmon Ladder, he fell, giving Asia at least one point.

  • Team USA - Najee Richardson:

Like Sean, Najee had also already finished Stage Two, giving him an edge. When he finished the Wave Runner, he’d earned at least 2 points. We nervously watched his approach to Wingnut Alley, but he stuck the landing beautifully! Nothing could stop him after that. He finished Stage Two with a time of 3:59:03.

  • Team Europe -Sean McColl:

Europe needed to pull in some points to move on, and Sean was the person to do it. He ’s massively accomplished in the rock climbing world and has been to USA vs the World four times before. He eliminated Team Asia by finishing the Salmon Ladder with a faster time. He easily made his way to Wingnut Alley and figured out the dismount instantly. As he flipped up the walls, he was pacing to beat Najee’s time. He won the heat, clocking in at 3:22:80.

Heat winner: Team Europe

Scoreboard:


STAGE THREE

As we moved into Stage Three, we said goodbye to Team Asia, and the scoreboard reset.

Points breakdown:

  • There were two heats on Stage Three.
  • The team that got the farthest the fastest would earn two points.
  • Second place got 1 point.
  • There were no points for last place.
  • The top two teams would head to Stage Four.

Obstacles:

  • Floating Boards
  • Key Lock Hang
  • Nail Clipper
  • Ultimate Cliffhanger
  • Curved Body Prop
  • Peg Cloud
  • Time Bomb
  • Flying Bar

Heat one:

  • Team Latin America - Marco Rubes:

Ouf. This was a quick one. Marco messed up the dismount from the Floating Boards and hit the water.

  • Team USA - Drew Drechsel:

Drew has seven years of ANW experience and he had beaten Stage Three in last year’s USA vs the World. We knew he could do this. He finished the Floating Boards, bumping Latin America into a precarious position. Drew took his time on the Key Lock Hang and then sped up at the Nail Clipper. Next, it was time for the Ultimate Cliffhanger. He landed the first leap, and it looked like he had the second one. But suddenly, Drew was in the water.

  • Team Europe - Sergio Verdasco:

This Ninja was a rookie to the competition, so he took a moment to adjust to the Key Lock Hang. Then he had just 30 seconds to beat the Nail Clipper if he wanted to outpace Drew. He was able to do it, positioning himself for two points. But it was a repeat of the Cliffhanger. The second transfer ended his run, but his pace earned the points.

Heat winner: Team Europe

Scoreboard:

Heat two:

Latin America was on the bubble. It was do-or-die time for the team.

  • Team Europe - Alexander Mars:

Alexander had a great performance on Stage Three last year and he hoped to repeat it. But the Cliffhanger struck again! The second transfer also took out Alexander.

  • Team Latin America - Sebastian Prieto:

We don’t envy the pressure this Ninja must have been feeling. He did finish the Floating Boards, so that was better than their last heat. He took his time, knowing he had to get beyond the Cliffhanger. He made it there. Sebastian took a breath but unfortunately didn’t survive the first big grab.

  • Team USA - Joe Moravsky:

Joe wanted redemption on the stage that had ended his season nine. He got too close to the edge for comfort on his dismount from the Floating Doors, but he made it. His time through the Nail Clipper beat Latin America, putting them out of the competition. But then he was at the clearly dangerous Ultimate Cliffhanger. In a repeat of what we’d seen over and over, he was ALSO out at this obstacle! But his time handed Team USA the win.

Heat winner: Team USA

Scoreboard:


STAGE FOUR

This was it! The final climb for all the glory! Unfortunately, Team Latin America was out, but now Team Europe and Team USA were ready for battle.

The rules were simple: Whoever hit the buzzer at the top of the 80-foot climb won. And the Ninjas would climb side-by-side, adding an intimidation and motivation factor.

  • Team Europe sent in Sean McColl.
  • Team USA opted for Sean Bryan.

Meaning we had a Sean-Fight!

The culminating event felt like it was over in a heated instant. Once they leaped up the rope, Sean Bryan had a tiny lead. But after that, it was too close to call. At the very end, Sean McColl gained a slim lead. The times at the buzzer were less than a second apart! Sean McColl landed a 25:93, and Sean Bryan was right behind him at 26:79.

This all meant that Team Europe yanked the trophy back from Team USA!

WINNER: TEAM EUROPE!

Both final teams put up incredible efforts, but we’ll have to wait a year to see if Team USA can reclaim their title!