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For Sandy Zimmerman, getting a Finals buzzer is a family affair

The mom has everyone in the family helping her prepare for the next challenge.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Sandy Zimmerman is not a Ninja who gives up on goals.

The mom competed on two seasons of American Ninja Warrior, seasons eight and nine, and exited the competition early both times. She returned in season 11 to become the first mom to clear the Warped Wall and hit a buzzer. The moment launched her to Ninja stardom.

Back for season 12, Sandy’s determination is on display again. In the Qualifiers, she made her way to the fifth obstacle, Slingshot, which advanced her to the Semi-Finals. Returning for the Semi-Finals, Sandy overcame her intimidation on the balance obstacle to bunny hop across Burn Rubber. Making her way into the second half of the course, Sandy was dropped by the incredibly challenging new obstacle, Corkscrew.

But guess what? She was still through to the Finals! Completing a ten obstacle course is a massive goal for any Ninja. Some veteran competitors are still chasing that buzzer. Sandy has her eyes set on it. But she also has a not-so-secret weapon: Her loving family doing everything they can to get mom to her goal.

“Right before I came here, so July 9th was my birthday, I had the best birthday of my entire life,” Sandy said, glowing over the memory.

“I woke up in the morning to homemade cards on the table where I eat and Mommy Memories is what they called the book. And my kids drew pictures of memories they had with me. So to start the day off and it wasn’t anything big, it was just these little moments that they remember spending with me and so of course I’m just crying. So the day started out like that and I didn’t know it, but that night I had gone to bed and my husband had stayed up and sometimes he’ll do that, so I didn’t even think twice about it. He was up till midnight, setting up a City Finals American Ninja Warrior course in the backyard.

So after I cried over the cards, I went and looked outside and it was all set up, 10 obstacles staged like a City Finals course, where you have those different upper body, lower body, Warped Wall in the middle. And then the back half of the course with a grueling upper body obstacle at the end. And I just, I was like, this is the best birthday of my entire life. Entire life.

I mean, I grew up in a huge family where there were years where we didn’t even, they didn’t remember my birthday. So to have this, you have this life that you’re given and then to look and go, look at the life I’ve created now. You have no control over that one, it is what it is. But now look at this life I have with my kids who are loved and cared for and safe. And that I wake up to homemade cards of little moments that don’t seem like they mean much, but they do. And then to have that course and have that love and that support of you have a dream, we’re behind you. Go crush it.”

Crying yet? We are. Sandy’s love for her family is palpable in everything she does. For her, American Ninja Warrior is a part of a very rich, full life.

“I don’t know how other Ninjas feel, but for me, I love being on the show and it is such a thrill, but for me, it’s kind of like the cherry on top of the sundae, there are so many good things that have come from Ninja outside of the show with the community that we have in Spokane. People I’ve met along the way and the life lessons and so many good things that come from it.

But I will say the show’s like the cherry on top, it’s like this fun, exciting thing that you get to go do once a year. We train really hard for this and we put in a lot of hours and it’s exciting and it’s fun to get to go on that stage and then use your platform to do some good.”

Sandy is always all smiles on the course, and when she talks about her family and her love for the sport, it’s pretty clear as to why. But it’s not always easy to feel that joy. Sandy is open about the fact that staying positive is a constant journey for her.

“I do have some huge American Ninja Warrior goals and I want to hit a couple more buzzers. I want to get through the Qualifying course and get a buzzer after those six. And I want to do the back half of the course and have that chance to get another buzzer. And so those are my big goals. But I think going in, it’s the little ones leading up of staying in the moment. That’s a huge goal for me. And it’s a battle and a struggle and listening to the right voice and listening to the strong, confident person that I’ve become and not the shy, quiet little voice of that little girl. And so for me, navigating those voices, staying in the moment is a huge goal.”

When Sandy returns to take another shot at a 10-obstacle course, it will be during the American Ninja Warrior Finals in a few weeks. With her top-notch backyard course and the very best cheering section possible, we’re so hoping Sandy can make her dream come true!