One of the delightful challenges of running American Ninja Warrior Nation is coming up with things to say about the show when there’s not much I can say about the show. It’s an annual hurdle I face whenever the show is recording a new season, but the actual broadcast is still weeks away.
This season, I did something new by sharing some out-of-context thoughts I had while on set. I’ve had several requests that I circle back and explain those thoughts now that some of the episodes have aired. So, here we are!
1.) I love these new obstacles so much.
This is pretty straightforward. I really enjoyed seeing the new obstacles in action during the Qualifiers! I was pretty partial to Overpass, especially. I loved the little element of anticipation. Will they or won’t they get there in time?
2.) Ohhh, those are some epic belly-flops.
This was due to Overpass once again! When a competitor missed the moving bar, they had to go for a huge laché. If it wasn’t a successful leap, some Ninjas were left in a bit of a Superman-style position, stretching forward to try to reach the bar. Which also left them in a great position for a full-on belly flop into the water.
3.) Hang on. HANG ON. HANG ON. Just one more move!
Meagan Martin’s run! I was so, so anxious for her. Before her run started, Meagan had told me she was rehabbing an injury in her hand. Just before she started the fifth obstacle, Pretzel Twist, Meagan paused and inspected her hand, shaking it out. I was so concerned the injury was flaring up. But then Meagan got up on that obstacle and went to work! I was mentally trying to send her every ounce of strength I could. Each second she was up there, I was willing her to hang on for just a bit longer.
Which, of course, she did, going on to complete the course.
4.) Well, great. Now I’m crying in public.
This one actually didn’t make it to the broadcast, so I’m glad I mentioned it! I was emotional during Philip Scott’s run to the buzzer. Philip inspired us all back in season 11 when he pushed through multiple panic attacks to make it all the way to the National Finals. However, a buzzer eluded him that season. Philip is a great person and a great Ninja. I really wanted that moment for him. It was wonderful to see him get that first career buzzer and it made me a little misty.
5.) I know exactly how this run is going to go. I should just write down the result now. NOPE. I WAS VERY, VERY WRONG.
Oh, this one. I am guilty of getting a little too comfortable with my assumptions sometimes. When I’m on set with the show, I take my own notes on the runs, as well as review production’s official results and notes. In this case, Daniel Gil was on the starting line. I figured I could probably jot down “great run, fastest finish” and get it over with.
I literally gasped and covered my mouth when Daniel jolted off the fifth obstacle. Daniel crawled out of the pool and finished up his sideline interview. As the camera crew walked away, Daniel looked at me and said, “Nikki, what happened?” I could only shrug, just as baffled as he was.
6.) They’re like squirrels scampering through the dang trees!
I think most people have figured this out. I was talking about the teens. Watching them on the course really was like watching squirrels bounce through the treetops! It became a bit of a running joke on set. As another teen would set the course on fire, a crew member would shake their head in astonishment and say, “Squirrels.”
7.) Did he seriously just say that?!?
This was my reaction to the audacity of Vance Walker answering Akbar while in the middle of an obstacle (and I mean that in the best way possible). When Akbar wondered aloud if Vance would go for the Mega Wall, Vance casually tossed back, “I am,” while in the middle of a move on Pretzel Twist. The crew on the sidelines broke into laughter. Kids these days.
8.) Did he seriously just DO THAT?!?
Part two of being floored by Vance Walker’s performance. He did great. He was fast. He talked to Akbar. But could he really get the Mega Wall? Come on, really? Could he? Oh, yup. He could. More head shaking and laughing from the crew.
9.) I am so proud of that Ninja even though I had nothing to do with what they just accomplished.
Awww, this one was for Kevin Brekke! As I said, I have nothing to actually do with his journey, but I’ve known Kevin for a while, and watching his dream come true was a really great moment. Kevin was the first winner of the Obstacle Design Challenge, with his creation, Crank It Up. He then went on to design even more obstacles with the ATS Team, the company the manufactures and develops the course along with the production company, A. Smith and Co. But I knew he was training hard for a real shot at the course. Seeing him get selected, and then seeing him make it to the third obstacle, realizing a dream, just made me so proud and happy for him.
10.) Have we ever seen this in the Qualifiers before? This might be a first.
This actually applies to two things from the Qualifiers. The first time I thought this was when I reviewed my notes from the first night of the Qualifiers and paused over the idea that we had five finishers. Only five? During the Qualifiers? That seemed very low. Turns out, that is the lowest number of clears for a Qualifier.
I had the same thought again as I looked over the leaderboard for the second night of the Qualifiers. Five women were in the top 30! That beat out the previous record of four. Only two episodes into the season and we already had two records on the book. Things were shaping up nicely for season 13!
American Ninja Warrior returns with the second night of the Semifinals on Monday, August 9, at 8 pm on NBC!