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Meet Overpass, Ninja Warrior’s gripping new obstacle for season 13

Overpass is all about timing and complete commitment.

We’re giving you a first look at one of American Ninja Warrior’s brand new obstacles for season 13: Overpass

We saw Overpass in action during the Tacoma Qualifiers and it’s a thing of beauty. When a Ninja nails it successfully, it’s a stunning ballet of athletics and timing. When they don’t nail it... Well, there are two options. Make a huge, daring move, or make a huge belly flop.

We practically begged the show’s producers to allow us to release info on this obstacle and they kindly decided to give us all a little treat. Read on to understand the first new obstacle of season 13!

In summary, here’s how Overpass works.

The Ninjas approach a set of three stationary laché bars. Grabbing and putting their weight on the first bar triggers the release of the “trolley bar” above their heads. The Ninjas must traverse the stationary bars while the trolley rolls above them. The goal is that the Ninja is in position to laché to the trolley bar as it passes them. It will then carry them into position to make the next move.

If they miss the trolley bar, it will lock into place ahead of them. However, the Ninja will have to attempt a nine-foot laché to reach it.

The Ninjas then laché to a final bar, which rides down a short track and provides access to the landing pad.

Let’s break it down step by step.

Here’s a tester demonstrating how the obstacle works. You can see the three stationary bars. Above the plexiglass, you can see the trolley bar waiting to be released.

She keeps her eye on the moving bar above her as she tries to time her trip across the stationary bars. Once she’s ready, she has to commit to the move. No hesitation allowed.

Just as the trolley bar passes the plexiglass, she makes her move. She must laché to the trolley bar. That means she has to completely release the final stationary bar and leap to the moving bar. Spanning the distance between the two bars (having one hand on each bar at the same time) is not allowed.

Now that she’s on the trolley bar, she slides down the track to its locked position. She’ll then have a short laché to the final bar, which slides down a small track.

Here’s another angle of the obstacle in motion.

To learn more about how this obstacle became a reality, we reached out to Nate Moore, the Chief Executive Officer of The ATS Team. The ATS Team manages the obstacle development along with A. Smith and Co, and oversees the construction of the course.

“The process started with a hand drawing,” Moore shared with us. “The initial concept was mine and it was called Double Back. I drew a very simple sketch and gave it to the design department to let them run with it.”

Here’s Moore’s original drawing.

And here’s what ATS’ design team translated that idea into.

You’ll notice a pretty big difference from the actual Overpass that was used on the show. The bars are going in the opposite direction in this early version. That means the trolley bar would have rolled towards the Ninjas instead of over them.

Moore shared that this first iteration went through a bit of an overhaul during the testing process.

“Ring Chaser was the inspiration for the idea. I liked the idea of chasing after something that was triggered. We tested this (early) version but ultimately the producers decided they liked the idea of it coming from behind (the Ninjas). The first version of the obstacle with the bar approaching from behind actually had a bar traveling in a tray that was not attached to the track like the one that made the show.”

The excitement we felt as we watched Overpass in action wasn’t just due to the epic belly flops. We loved seeing this newer obstacle element on the course. Combined with season 13’s “Split-Decision,” obstacles like Overpass give the sense that the Ninjas have some control on the course. It isn’t just happening TO them, they need to play an active role in it.

Moore says we can expect to see this again as time goes on.

“Overpass is only the second ANW obstacle to have an independent moving element triggered by the athlete. It is unique in that respect but I assume we will see more of this type of obstacle in the future.”

You’ll have the chance to see who survives Overpass and who goes swimming when American Ninja Warrior returns on May 31 at 8 pm on NBC.