Season seven of American Ninja Warrior kicked off to a great start last night!
The amazing, adrenaline racing competition show returns for another season. Original episodes are aired on NBC Monday nights with the encore presentations airing Tuesday nights on Esquire Network. Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila return as hosts and are joined by co-host Kristine Leahy.
This year the prize has doubled from $500,000 to a staggering one million – encouraging competitors to push even harder. At this point, no competitor has ever achieved total victory or won the final prize. Each city has a qualifying and final round. The top 30 are taken from the city qualifying and move on to the regional final. The top 15 from there win the opportunity to go to Las Vegas where they get to compete in a four stage course mirroring the legendary Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan (where the game originated). There will also be 6 wildcard spaces available.
Last night the show began in Venice, California with what proved to be a very demanding qualifying course. It was made of up six obstacles: quintuple steps, mini silk glider, tilting table, spin cycle, hourglass drop and finally the time honored warped wall. The two obstacles that proved most difficult for the competitors were the hourglass drop and the spin cycle.
There were seven finishers of the night which is a record low for a qualifying round. That speaks to the difficulty of the obstacles this year in Venice. The competitors who finished were: Kevin Bull, Alan Connealy, Nicholas Coolridge, Alvaro Campos, Travis Brewer, Grant McCartney and Almas Merimanov. While there were only a handful of finishers, the top 30 from last night are moving on.
There were a couple noteworthy players that I’d be remiss not to mention. Jon Ryan, Seattle Seahawks punter, looked like he was going to do really well on the course. He made it to the tilting table obstacle but his size made the table turn a little too quickly. He made a leap for the platform but was too far back to stick the landing. Fellow Seahawks teammates Jermaine Kearse and Derrick Coleman showed up to cheer him on. While he didn’t make it very far on the course, he took the loss like a champ and we look forward to seeing if he’ll come back again and try again next year!
Then there’s Jessie Graff. She is a returning competitor, but this time she took herself a bit more seriously. Last time we saw her she was running the course in a chicken suit but this time she meant business. Kacy Catanzaro joined the hosts to encourage her but despite the support, Jessie’s jump on the trampoline was a bit off and the hourglass drop took her as it’s next victim.
Here’s a list of my favorite four competitors of the night.
- Kevin Bull. Last year we met him as a walk on and this year he’s returning as an invited athlete. He had the fastest run of the night, finishing in well under a minute and beating the next competitor in line by more than thirty seconds!
- Grant McCartney. He was an absolute delight to watch. His energy was palpable through the screen and he clearly had a great attitude. Plus his father, cheering him on, was absolutely adorable!
- Nicholas Coolridge. He’s a rookie this year and as his pre-run clip showed he’s a construction worker. His run was amazing and he finished the course like a pro!
- Brian Kretsch. His run started out amazing. Everything looked very promising until he hit a platform hard and injured his leg. He continued on the course as best as he could for some time until the Hourglass Drop took him out. His leg just couldn’t handle the impact on the trampoline. Medics informed us that he may have broken his leg below the knee. To see him soldier on despite such a debilitating injury was inspiring but the sweetest part of all was that he stuck around to cheer on his sister Shannon who was also running the course.
It looks like it’s going to be an exciting season! I can’t wait to see more of my favorite veterans and get to know some new hopeful rookies!
So tune in to NBC Monday nights at 8pm and keep up with your favorites!