I tried the ‘American Ninja Warrior’ course and failed miserably — again
I’ve spent the past two years planning my redemption on the “American Ninja Warrior” course.
It started with my retelling of my first failed attempt in 2016, when I, with the hubris of a thousand Kanyes, wrote this statement: “Knowing what I know with my 20/20 hindsight, I still believe I could train and complete at least one obstacle.”
I replayed the moment over and over in my head, thinking about what I had done wrong, believing it was possibly a fluke and that I could make it farther if I tried again.
Back then, I had the chance to study a video of my fail with actual ninjas Jon “The Giant” Alexis, then 27, who identified my literal missteps on the first obstacle.
“Your hips aren’t facing toward the next step. Your feet aren’t flat before you push off. You’re trying to push off one leg, without directing yourself anywhere.”
Three mistakes in one jump on the floating steps earned me an embarrassing dunk into the pool of water beneath the obstacle.
I was determined not to have the same fate when I learned I was going to get another chance to attempt it with other members of the media when NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” came back to Monument Circle to film earlier this week.
I set what I thought was an attainable goal: To make it to the second floating step — the equivalent of doubling my run.
There was little time to train or prepare, though, but let’s not pretend like it would’ve made much of a difference. I had the bizarrely good luck of getting a personal coaching session from megastar ninja Drew Drechsel, who I met when I arrived on the course.
Drechsel has competed in six past seasons of ANW, and had already finished his qualifying round in Miami before coming to Indianapolis to cheer on other ninjas. (No, he can’t tell us how he did.)
I still keep wondering why a celebrity ninja felt the need to be nice to a stranger who wasn’t really even competing, but then I remember from past experience covering the show that the ninja community is a tight-knit group of intensely supportive athletes.
When he learned my goal, he asked if I was better jumping on one foot or two.
“Uh…” I started, trying to think about the last time I jumped. “I don’t really jump.”
“Let me help you out,” he said. “You’re better on two.”
Coach Drechsel then had me jump, with both feet, to test it out.
“See?” he said, pointing at the space I jumped. “You just made it the distance you need to go.”
Drechsel had given me the confidence I needed, and even appeared on the side of the course when I was up.
When I was on the first step, positioning my body to reach the step I couldn’t reach last time, I heard Drechsel’s directing me from the ground.
“Get a little lower on the step. A little lower. Now jump! Both feet!”
There’s clearly some disconnect between what I think my body is doing, and what my body actually did. With outstretched arms frantically grabbing at the top of the step, I missed and fell into the pool. It was almost move-for-move my performance from 2016.
As soon as I jumped out, soaking and cold, Drechsel was there.
“What happened!” he exclaimed, and I immediately felt bad for disappointing his coaching. I gave him a dejected “I don’t know,” and he explained what happened: Instead of jumping with both feet like his minutes of training had taught me, I hopped forward with my right leg, locking it on the step. It catapulted me backward.
I didn’t have time to ask him more about it, because as I turned around, there were the show’s hosts, Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila joking with me about my performance/lack thereof.
“Here, you deserve a sticker for that!” Iseman said has he handed me an ANW sticker. And then, in one of the coolest moments of my life, he went into announcer mode and delivered commentary on my run, as the cameras were rolling.
“Amy, who gave a valiant effort in the subzero temperatures out here, a heroic performance that only words can really do justice to,” he said.
Valiant, sure. I’ll take that. But I have no cocky or hopeful “I could do better” thought left in my mind, so I’ll just admit it:
I can’t do “American Ninja Warrior,” but I’m grateful for the chance to fail.