When Thomas Stillings hit the buzzer on American Ninja Warrior, he broke down into sobs. The moment represented so much to the Ninja. After a year away, he return for season 12 on the third night of Qualifiers. His run earned him a place in the Semi-Finals, but it also marked a bright spot in a very long year.
“I’ve cried so much today,” Thomas said, as we stepped to the side for a quick interview after his run.
Thomas’ time had just missed out on the top two spots, meaning he wouldn’t get a shot at this Power Tower, but he was unfazed by that. As he shared on the episode, aside from the pandemic and the shared struggles of 2020, Thomas and his wife, Zoe, faced a terrifying health scare when doctors discovered that Zoe had a large brain tumor. Luckily, she’s fine now, but the road was a long one for Thomas.
“My motivation is my wife. Me and her have been through so much, especially this year. Almost losing her to a brain tumor, and then corona. Everything. It was just like, oh man. We needed something good. When we found out I got the call, that was the first sign. And now, hitting that buzzer. That was the light at the end of the tunnel for us. It’s just amazing.”
This run marked Thomas’ return to the course as he didn’t take part in season 11. Thomas came back with something to prove and a plan.
“My main goal was coming back after taking last year off and not training as hard and not being as fit as I’d like to be - Just don’t embarrass myself. I also have a really good reputation of being undefeated on a Qualifying course. Being able to keep that record intact and hitting that buzzer for my wife, that’s just the cherry on the cake. It was everything. Now anything that happens, I’m going to walk away with a huge smile on my face. Just being here is amazing.”
Thomas has a history of being speedy on the course which put the Power Tower in his sights. It wasn’t in the cards for Qualifiers, but Thomas found solace in how things turned out.
“If feels good after taking last year off and then to come back. I tried to make it (to the Power Tower). I couldn’t quite do it. Sad. But if I was going to get bumped out, having it happen by R.J. Roman, I’m okay with it. I wasn’t really inefficient on anything. I just unfortunately didn’t have the strength to plow through the Ferris Wheels like him and Sean Bryan did. I knew it was going to come down to the Ferris Wheels for us. This whole course was designed for my strengths, except for number five, and that’s where it mattered.
But it was a really good run. I was really happy with my performance. Again, if it was going to be anyone, I’m really happy it was R.J.”
Actually having a new season of American Ninja Warrior to watch feels pretty surreal to all of us. That’s not lost on Thomas either.
“Until I got to that start platform, it was like anything could happen. Are we good? Then everything hit. I’m back! Season 12, this is going to be a good year for me.”
His good year is off and running! We’re so happy Thomas’ wife is healthy and we’re so happy he’ll be back on the course for Semi-Finals!