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Kevin Carbone on his third season, ‘I want them to know that I’m also an obstacle crusher.’

The obstacle designer is in the process of taking courses apart this year.

In a relatively short period of time, Kevin Carbone has managed to leave a permanent mark on the American Ninja Warrior landscape. Through his work as an obstacle designer, he’s brought the Wingnuts and Deja Vu to the course. The Wingnuts alone are deadly enough. When they were reshaped into Wingnut Alley on Stage Two of the National Finals, they dealt more damage than any of us wanted to see.

Kevin initially came up with the Wingnuts for the Obstacle Design Challenge. They were selected for the show in season nine, which is also the year Kevin debuted as a walk-on and made it to Stage One of the National Finals. He missed out on Vegas in season 10 after an early exit in the Miami City Finals. But things are right on track for season 11.

In the Atlanta Qualifiers, he completed the course and earned $10,000 on the Mega Wall. In the City Finals, Kevin honed in once again, pulled off a 360 turn on the Warped Wall and brought in the second fastest completion time. On the Power Tower, he was unable to overcome Drew Drechsel for the Safety Pass, but Kevin can say he’s returning to Las Vegas with an impressive season already behind him.

We talked to Kevin about how he’s feeling this season, his spectacular City Finals run, and what he wants out of the National Finals this year.

This season’s motivation

“My motivation is to prove to myself that I can do this and when I set out, that was my initial goal: I can do this. I can beat these courses and become the athlete that I always wanted to be, and this year, definitely for me, is a big moment, because my first year went well. My second year didn’t go so well. My third, I just want to hammer home that point in my head that I got this. I can do this.

They (the audience) know me as the obstacle designer and obstacle builder, but I want them to know that I’m also an obstacle crusher.”

The Atlanta City Finals

“I was standing behind the stage, and I was watching Brett Sims finish the tower. And I knew if I could just stay calm and approach the platform, not freak out when I saw the crowd going crazy, I would be up there too. So one at a time. That was what I told myself. Take this one at a time.

And I didn’t get tired. I had a plan for the Warped Wall, to do a 360. So 360 is something I love to do. And I’ve really waited for that moment to be able to do it. And I just knew that this was the course and this was the time to do it. But I couldn’t let myself get too excited about it afterwards.

I still had to finish the Salmon Ladder, the Up For Grabs, and the last two obstacles. So I still had to finish, and I couldn’t really let myself breathe and think about that until I had actually hit the buzzer. And that’s when I remembered, ‘Oh dude, I did a 360 on the course!’ So, great night for me.”

Making it back to Vegas after missing out in season 10

“It really made me feel like my training has been right. My recovery has been right. And that’s a really powerful thing for anybody to feel like, when they’ve put a lot into something and then they accomplish it. It makes you feel at peace with yourself. So I was super at peace after that.

You know, nothing hurts more than the not making Vegas as a Ninja. You get to see the testing experience, which is something that can be good or bad. For me, it was just not what I wanted it to be. I did not want to be in Vegas as a tester. Making it back was less about the actual achievement of, ‘I’m coming for $1 million, and more about, I’m so glad that I fixed what I did last year. That I have the ability to make changes and to not get stuck somewhere and then stay in that groove.

That through hard work, you can actually get out of that and change something that you don’t like. So for me, that’s what it’s more about than just, ‘I’m in Vegas to win $1 million.’

What to expect from him in the National Finals

“By now, in my third year, as a three-year Ninja, I hope I see the calm, relaxed Kevin Carbone that started doing this sport for what it is. It’s fun. I want to enjoy the fun of the courses, and not take it so seriously that I’m so nervous I want to throw up. Because that was my first year experience. And if this is something I’m really gonna do for a long time, then I hope I can enjoy it, and show that I enjoy it.”