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Grant McCartney on this season’s challenges: “Physically, I feel great, and my mental game has been lagging”

We’ve watched him experience ups and downs on his way back to the National Finals.

Grant McCartney had a nail-biting night at the American Ninja Warrior Cincinnati City Finals.

After completing the Qualifying course (with the Mega Wall), Grant found himself very nearly “on the bubble” once again. In season 10, Grant missed out on making it to the National Finals when his timing nudged him in the 16th spot overall. He returned this year newly focused on concentrating on the course, antics and dancing aside.

However, a small miscalculation caused Grant to miss one of the handles on the Slam Dunk, ending his run there. He had to anxiously wait as the competitors after him took to the course. At one point, he was in the 11th spot with two runners left. If they went farther than obstacle eight, or did it in a faster time, he would miss out on the National Finals for the third year in a row.

In the end, a few early falls saved Grant’s season. It’s not the way any Ninja wants to think about how they advanced, but it’s time to make the best of the situation. Grant spoke to us about what it is he needs to do to make sure the National Finals go his way.

Looking back at the Cincinnati City Finals

“City Finals. I was feeling really good going into it. I had just beaten the Mega Wall. I was the only one to do it. I had a big cloud of confidence, but I remembered what it was like years ago to get first in Qualifier, and to go out the next night on the Salmon Ladder. So, I was keeping that in mind, and just remembering this is a new course, just like starting over.

I ran the first five obstacles just like I wanted to, a little bit faster than normal, but a good pace. I got to the Salmon Ladder, of course it’s in my head, but didn’t stop on the Warped Wall, blitz right past them, don’t waste any time. I know seconds matter. I went up the rungs, didn’t have any problems, and the new Slam Dunk obstacle.”

“So on the Slam Dunk obstacle-- I had technique, started going, felt great. Not pumped. Not feeling like I was going to slip. Just making the grabs. What people don’t know is sometimes on the course I start to think about random other things. I have ADHD, and it kicks in on the course a lot. I started thinking about other stuff, and then I remembered, ‘Oh wait, I got one more move, focus.’

As I did, I think I didn’t focus. As I threw to the next grab, it just missed my hand, so kind of silly, lack of focus on the course. Something that people wouldn’t know unless you were in my head, but yeah, silly, silly mistake, because I had plenty of strength still.”

Waiting to find out if he qualified for Vegas

“I hate that moment for the record, where you’re waiting, and you don’t want your friends to do bad, but you want to make it. I’m just waiting for the essentially bad news, and then hope started to build when I got closer and closer, and then to make it was awesome. So much time and energy (spent training). There’s so much food that I didn’t eat for that moment to come in my favor, and so I was ecstatic. Maybe I was just really glad that it paid off, because I could eat soon too. Just thinking about food can be emotional.”

How it feels to be back in the National Finals

“I haven’t been back in Vegas for two years. So to be here just feels really good. It feels like hard work paid off, and now it’s just focusing up, as there’s some work to do.

I expect consistency. I’m not looking to be the fastest, and I’m not looking to be the most flashy. I’m just looking to be consistent and showcase what I’ve trained for.”

Preparing for the courses that are still to come

“My biggest thing this year is my mental game. Physically, I feel great, and my mental game has been lagging. Sometimes I show up ... Even in Cincinnati, I did it, thinking I had already lost before I even competed. This year, it was hard for me to tell myself, ‘I’m going to hit all four buzzers,’ but then I started thinking about logically I could do each one individually, so why can’t I do them collectively? So I think I can do all four, and now I’m spending these next couple days mentally getting to the place that I can do this, and I will do my best.”