‘American Ninja Warrior’ took over Downtown Indianapolis while you were sleeping
Two years after NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” first filmed in Indianapolis, the show with an intense fan base and community of athletic ninjas returned with an IndyCar contestant, brand-new obstacles — and better weather.
The Indianapolis episode, which airs June 18, is the fourth stop in a six-city tour for the show’s 10th season.
“Indy definitely knows how to host,” “American Ninja Warrior” co-host Akbar Gbajabiamila said. “When we came to Indy a couple years ago, we had literally about five, six thousand people on the peripheral, and it was overwhelming.”
About 500 fans and supporters watched from bleachers as more than 100 athletes attempted feats along a crescent-shaped course on the north side of Monument Circle on Sunday.
Hundreds more lined the gates in the circle, cheering contestants and hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite ninjas from sundown until sunrise. Similar sized crowds came out two years ago, in spite of freezing rain that delayed filming.
The show frequently films its qualifying rounds in major cities, but filming in the center of the country brings in a different type of contestant, co-host Matt Iseman said.
“It’s good values and they appreciate people who are willing to put themselves out there,” he said. “That’s what American Ninja Warrior is all about, and we had some of the best stories here.”
The huge turnout of spectators in Indianapolis prove how popular the show is, Iseman said.
“This is one of the first times we knew the growth of American Ninja warrior,” he said. “We were here two years ago, at the height of the presidential election. I think (Donald) Trump was here, (Bernie) Sanders was here, Hillary (Clinton) was here, but the biggest event was right here in Monument Circle. It was ‘American Ninja Warrior.'”
In 2016, IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden got the chance to compete on the course, and Conor Daly tired it in 2017 in San Antonio.
This year, it was four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon’s turn to attempt the obstacles as a cheering crowd of supporters in neon orange “IndyCar Ninja” shirts cheered him on from the bleachers.
We can’t reveal how he did until the show airs, but he took it very seriously.
“When you’re in the racing environment, (the fans are) so far separated. You’ve got earbuds in, you’ve got a helmet on,” Dixon said. “I could hear people yelling, but even seeing all the orange shirts before going up on stage gave me a ton of nerves. It’s not in my wheelhouse, right? It’s not something I typically do. It got me very very nervous, and I probably didn’t enjoy the moment as much as I should have.”
Dixon did enjoy his training, though, and he might consider trying to make the show again in his free time — which isn’t much. He was to be in his IndyCar on Monday for testing.
Some of the skills are translatable to racing, he said.
“The hand and finger strength and forearm and endurance in that area that these men and women have is untold and nothing I was even close to,” Dixon said. “I’ve got a long ways to go on that.”
Kanaan, who was part of the cheering section, had one bit of advice for Dixon: “Stay calm, which is almost impossible.”
“He was nervous, which is funny,” IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan said. “I was teammates with him for four years and I don’t think I saw him this nervous before now.”
Competing after Dixon was United States women’s national hockey team member Kendall Coyne, who took home a gold medal during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“I’m a little nervous, excited, but I’ve been getting some great advice from all the veteran ninjas here in Indianapolis,” she said, adding that she hadn’t trained long. “We just finished the Olympics in February, so not too long, not as long as I’d like to. Not as much as I’ve trained for the biggest moments in my life.”
The show’s presence in Indianapolis generates about $1 million for the city, but some contestants and fans expressed that it’s more than economic impact for the city’s image.
“It’s very cool. Even talking to some of the producers, It’s not usual to have a hosting city back within two years, so they love coming here,” Dixon said. “It’s a big sporting city and they really enjoy it, and hopefully they continue to come back.”
Article originally posted on Indy Star