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Flip Rodriguez was the first to be saved by the Safety Pass

But is he okay after that first fall?

To be honest, we would have never guessed that Flip Rodriguez would be the first Ninja to need American Ninja Warrior’s new Safety Pass. After completing the Los Angeles City Finals course with the fastest time, he faced Brian Kretsch on the Power Tower and won the coveted do-over.

On night one of the National Finals, we saw the Safety Pass do exactly what it was designed to do. Flip tripped on the balance obstacle, the Diving Boards, and went into the water. Any other year, that would be it. But Flip got to flash his Safety Pass and run one more time. Then, he was able to complete the course and prepare for Stage Two.

We are worried that Flip seems to be nursing an injury from his Diving Boards fall, which could cast a shadow on his Stage Two experience. Before that run and the fall, Flip let us in on how he felt about the Safety Pass and if it affected how he looked at the National Finals.

David Becker/NBC

Going into the season with his eye on the Safety Pass

“The City Finals experience was amazing. We got this new Safety Pass happening. My early seasons I went out to compete, looking for the number one slot. And that’s kind of changed over the years, because there was no reason to be in first place. There was no reason to need to take these risks and push yourself to this limit. Now all of a sudden they go, ‘Okay, cool. We’re going to make the course a little easier and we’re going to make it more based on speed and really bring out the best in these athletes.”

Then you have your plan and they go, ‘Oh well, here’s a twist. Top two competitors go head-to-head on this Power Tower, that you guys have no idea what it’s about, and you guys get a Safety Pass for Vegas Stage One or Stage Two.’ And when I heard that I was like, ‘Okay. Perfect. I can break this Babe Ruth curse that I have on Stage Two.’ So it kind of brought more of the competitive side of me as opposed to, ‘Okay I just need to work on strength because Ninja Warriors is strictly based on strength.”

David Becker/NBC

How that played into his preparation for Stage One

“Of course it plays a huge difference knowing that I have the Safety Pass in my state of mind, my game plan. Because now it’s kind of just like weight off your shoulders. You obviously don’t want to use it, right. I don’t want to get wet and I don’t want to run again, but knowing that I have an extra life is nice. It’s more relaxing. You know I came in this whole season just going like, ‘You know what, it’s just a TV show. This TV show doesn’t make me who I am. There’s no reason to put so much pressure into failure, right? Or success. This is what you train for, trust your training and everything will be fine.’

Who cares if a million people like you or a million people hate you for making it or failing. They don’t help me in my everyday life. They don’t check on me to see if I’m OK. They don’t help me eat every day. So why do we value so many other people’s opinions?

And once you understand that, who cares about everybody else. It’s kind of like, it’s freeing. It’s really freeing and now if I fail on obstacle one, who cares.”

David Becker/NBC

Keeping life in perspective with the high stakes looming

“I expect myself to do the best that I can, regardless of the result. Obviously I want to win it all, there’s no doubt about that, but life happens every day. Ninja Warrior is not my everyday life. It’s something that I love to do and I’m passionate about. It’s a hobby. It keeps me fit. It gives me a reason to stay fit. And I just come out here, I’m just going to do what I do. Just go out, have fun, keep the closest people to me that are with me, tears, blood, sweat.

They’re there every day and they see what we go through, rather than watching it on TV and going, ‘I think I could do that.’ There’s a lot of grind that goes into this, so I just expect for me to do my best and enjoy it with the people that are there every day with me.”