A ‘Ninja’ champion is (finally) crowned

15 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Ninja Warrior’ Crowns First Winner — With a Twist.

After seven seasons, NBC’s American Ninja Warrior has crowned its first champion, as Isaac Caldiero, a 33-year-old rock climber and busboy, became the first U.S. contestant to complete all four “stages” of its grueling Las Vegas obstacle course in Monday’s season finale. Actually, he was the second: Geoff Britten, a Maryland cameraman who was the only other athlete to compete in the final stage — a 75-foot rope climb that had to be scaled within 30 seconds — finished first. But in the Season 7 finale, two men made it past the third stage of competition Monday night, clearing insane obstacles like Roulette Row and the Ultimate Cliff Hanger, and showing off their superhuman agility, grip strength and endurance. Caldiero won $1 million after very narrowly edging out another contestant (Geoff Britten) who surprised fans by also finishing the just-shy-of-impossible obstacle course.

Geoff “Popeye” Britten, a 36-year-old full-time sports cameraman,became the first American ever to complete ANW’s grueling Stage 4 in the Las Vegas Finals (with a final time of 29.65 seconds). Caldiero says he was convinced that eventually, among 3,500 athletes who’ve competed on Ninja Warrior, “someone was going to win, I just didn’t know when.” The course has been “dubbed impossible for so many years, and I said, ‘I want to be the guy who does the impossible,’ and I did.” He says this season’s competition was “by far the hardest,” thanks to tougher, unfamiliar obstacles and veteran contestants who’ve had another year of training. You can fall on the most basic obstacle you’ve done a million times.” The final three stages were filmed over about 10 hours in late June, with Caldiero emerging the victor shortly before sunrise after an unusually hot day. With up-close-and-personal profiles and returning favorites, the competition has moved from a male-driven niche cable series to NBC’s No. 2 summer show among younger viewers, and 52% of its audience is women, says executive producer Kent Weed. That set the tone for the season and everybody saw that achievement and said, “If he could do it, I could do it, too.” Which is the same reason why we have new ninjas every season.

We found our first, now who can be the next?” “It’s as much a mental game as a physical one,” Weed. says. “You can psych yourself out very easily. When you look down you’re basically spotting your landing point and you’re going to fall” into one of the course’s splash pools. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look down and make it.” What will Utah native Caldiero, who now lives in Vegas with his girlfriend and fellow contestant Laura Kisana, do with his million-dollar prize? “I’ve never been to Disneyland,” he says. Actually, the upper body strength I think the women have cracked now, the problem is they can’t get through Stage 1 because of the clock, they’re a little bit slower than the guys. [Many of the female competitors] have upper body strength that’s insane, and you’ll see that in All Stars when some compete in Second and Third Stage obstacles how well they do.

You see these stories where the contestants are working in movie theaters and living out of their car, and I wonder if they should they get paid for their participation once they make it past a certain point in the season? But it feels like they fall between the gap being a professional athlete — who would get paid — and a reality show participant—who would also get paid. There’s a modest prize for the fastest finisher in the city qualifier and finals in each city, and there’s a per diem and we take care of their travel to Vegas. There’s enough that they get in their real lives, there’s a lot of popularity that they share, and there’s sometimes areas of revenues they can come up with. They look back and go over it and go, “I just had a mental lapse.” We take great care in the obstacles we create and how we design them, not just about physical but mental skills, too.

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