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Nate Hansen on hitting the buzzer: ‘I’m living proof that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.’

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Nate gifted us with the first buzzer of the season with his inspirational run.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

American Ninja Warrior returned with its first night of the new Qualifying format. The course introduced a few new obstacles that proved to be tricky, delaying the arrival of the season’s first buzzer. It wasn’t until rookie Nate Hansen took the course that we saw our first finisher.

Nate, who goes by Gnarly Ninja Nate, was part of Tyler Gillett’s group of competitors. When we asked Tyler about the group, including Nate, this is what he had to say

“They are some young kids that the world’s not ready for yet. They might blow me out of the water.”

That statement was backed up by Nate’s powerful performance. Nate trains five to six days a week while also being a full time student. He makes up his own courses, takes part in strength training, and works in some yoga. But Nate’s not here to just try to take down courses (that’s important though), he wants to inspire others with his journey to overcome the obstacles life handed him. Nate has a growth hormone deficiency that impeded his height over the years. After years of shots, he topped out at 5’2” tall and experienced a lot of bullying. But none of that prevented him from becoming “Gnarly Nate.” Read on for his thoughts.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Why he’s here

“The whole reason behind it (American Ninja Warrior) is to motivate other people who may struggle with the same thing I do, the growth hormone deficiency. I’m shorter than the average person. A lot of people could see that as not normal, or weird, but I see it as an advantage.

I’m here to hit buzzers and motivate people around the world who may be struggling with self-confidence and mental thinking about themselves. Who are maybe thinking they’re not enough based on the opinions of other people. I’m living proof that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”

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‼️PLEASE READ THIS AND HELP ME CHANGE LIVES‼️(Link in bIo) Many people have asked me what the 12 on my shirt stands for. Not many people know this about me, but as a kid I always grew up as the shortest and smallest kid in my school. I was always picked on, bullied, and underestimated. I went through difficult, dangerous, and challenging times in this part of my life, and believe it or not, the definition of gnarly is just that. Gnarly: (adj.) difficult, dangerous, or challenging, hence the name Gnarly Nate. No matter what the obstacles have been throughout my life, I have chosen to conquer and overcome them all. Now it is time to help inspire the world to do the same! At the age of 12 I was diagnosed with Growth hormone deficiency. This happens when the pituitary gland in your brain fails to produce growth hormone in your body, stunting growth in multiple areas of the body. For years, I had no idea what was wrong with me, and at that moment I knew my life was going to look a little different. From that day on I took shot after shot of prescribed growth hormone to help my body grow to the best of its ability. The bullying didn't stop... ever. Attempting to play sports during these years of my life was extremely brutal, I was always viewed as the underdog and never given the chance to prove myself and my athletic capabilities. I sat on the sidelines EVERY SINGLE GAME because I was just simply "not good enough." So I quit. It took me a long time to get over the fact that I wasn't good enough for any team or anybody in general just because, I was short. There was a point in my life where I chose to overcome the battle of growth hormone deficiency and stop caring about how tall I was going to be or what people thought about me. This was also around the time I began training for my favorite show in the world, American Ninja Warrior. Ninja Warrior brought me back to life and began to show me what I was truly meant and built to do. I was meant to inspire others to overcome obstacles no matter how difficult, dangerous, or challenging they may be. To face the biggest of bullies and never let someone tell you that are simply "not good enough." @childrenscolo @gofundme

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On Qualifiers

“I hit my first buzzer, which is really awesome. I exceeded my own standards. I was glad that, not only was I able to hit that buzzer, but I was able to stay at the top with everyone else. The obstacles felt great and I felt great both physically and mentally. I came prepared.”

On training during a pandemic

“I stayed prepared and stayed fit doing running and Cross Fit. I actually built some obstacles in my mom’s house. I had to persuade her a little bit but we built some obstacles in her hallway. She must have loved it. I’m sure she’s patching the holes already.”

On what’s next this season

“I’m feeling great. I have lots of confidence that I can be very successful and just as successful today as I was in Qualifying. I think I can hit another buzzer. Now that I know what the nerves feel like and how to handle them, I can repeat the series of events.

I think my greatest strength is controlling my pace. When I’m on a course, it settles itself and I can control my breathing and pace. I don’t know if many others are very good at that.”

Nate will return to our TV screens in a few weeks when American Ninja Warrior moves into the Semi-Finals.