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Explainer: Revisiting the rules around how women advance on Ninja Warrior

We get a few questions about this every season, so let’s break it down.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

The premiere of American Ninja Warrior’s 13th season is just about one month away! It all kicks off on Monday, May 31 at 8 pm on NBC.

As each season approaches, we like to spend a little time clarifying things for any new viewers or clear up any questions for returning viewers. To start that off this time around, we’ve seen several questions coming up regarding how women advance on the show. It has been a little while since we’ve visited that subject, so let’s address it now!

How do women advance on American Ninja Warrior?

Ahead of season nine, the show introduced a new way to advance women farther into the competition. Previously, the show selected “wildcards” to attend the National Finals in Las Vegas. The wildcard slots generally went to women and there wasn’t much clarity around how they were selected.

At the time of the new rules, we created this video to help explain the process.

American Ninja Warrior: New rules

Now that you've seen the rule in action for a full season, what are your thoughts on it?

Posted by American Ninja Warrior Nation on Monday, October 16, 2017

(The numbers were slightly different in season 12 due to the shortened season and the limited number of competitors. We’re using a “normal” season for our numbers here.)

In the Qualifiers, the top five women advance to the next round. For example, if there are four women in the top 30, the next woman who went the farthest the fastest (but placed outside of the top 30) would also advance.

In the City Finals/Semifinals, the top two women advance to the next round. As another example, if two women placed within the top 15, no additional women would advance.

Once we’re at the National Finals, there are no rules regarding how the women advance. They must hit a buzzer.

The main point of confusion we hear about this rule is that it sounds like the number of women is limited.

There is no cap on the number of women that can advance each round. This rule only guarantees a minimum number of women will move on.

For example, if there are seven women in the top 30 of a Qualifiers round, they are all moving on. If there are five women in the top 15 of a Semifinals round, they are all moving on. The rules only advance more women if the minimum number is not met within the leaderboard of that round.

Five and two are the MINIMUM number of women that will advance, not the maximum.

Now to address the next common point of discussion around this subject. The show prides itself on the gender-neutral aspects of the course. Men and women compete on the same obstacles with the same expectations for performance. Doesn’t this rule fly in the face of that?

Well, it can certainly be looked at that way. We can’t really argue one way or another about that. The goal of it is to advance more women into the later rounds who have proven their skills and give them an opportunity to face the National Finals.

American Ninja Warrior - Season 9 Photo by: Duane Prokop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

The best example of this rule in action is to take a look at Allyssa Beird’s performances in season nine. In the Cleveland City Finals, she made it to the Nail Clipper, the eighth obstacle on the course. She was one of 20 competitors who fell there. Her time to the obstacle put her outside the top 15, but the women’s rule advanced her to the National Finals.

At the National Finals, Allyssa became the second woman to ever clear Stage One and advance to Stage Two. The historic moment wouldn’t have happened without the new rule.

So, did Allyssa advance because of the rule? Yes. Did the rule advance a competitor who wasn’t ready to take on more obstacles? No.

There you gave it! We hope we cleared up any misunderstandings around how women advance on American Ninja Warrior. Still have questions? Drop them in the comments below.