Five Things We Learned From American Ninja Warrior Qualifying

A review of our favorite summer series and preview of next week’s Vegas Finals.

ANW ratingsThis is a graph of American Ninja Warrior‘s ratings so far.  Even though it was in direct competition with 24: Live Another Day, Season Six of NBC’s other summer pleasure has been one of the most-watched and most consistently-watched show on Monday nights (and for good reason).  With National Finals beginning on the 18th,  we want give a primer on what we and five million of our closest friends learned over the first 10 weeks and what to expect over the (presumably) five-part finale spectacular.

Note: Many stats will be taken from Sasukepedia if not otherwise noted.

Stage 1 may be easier than City Finals

Of the 162 people who made it past their region’s qualifying course, only 31 finished their 10-part course.  That’s a success rate of 19.14%, compared to 24.32% success for the first stage in the first two Vegas Finals and 24.24% for Stage 1 of the last two SASUKE tournaments.  Of course, you didn’t have to clear City Finals to make it to Vegas–the top 15 made it through regardless, but a number of wild card entries will be given out, too–but you have to clear Stage 1.  A five percent difference equates to four additional people in a field of 85 being successful, which could mean the difference between failure and success for those on the margins.  Speaking of which…

Outliers are the new normal
Known ages of ANW finalists (excl. Wild Cards)

Known ages of ANW finalists (excl. Wild Cards)

Athletics are for younger people, and it’s no different for ANW. 90% of the finalists are aged 35 or under, considered to be range one has their athletic prime.  However, there two extreme outliers in Sam Sann and Jon Stewart.  Obviously, these unusual achievements like those should be celebrated (The 52-year-old Stewart completed the Denver Final) but for an event like SASUKE or ANW, you should always expect the unexpected.  Last season four of 65 regional qualifiers (i.e. not wild cards) were older than 35, including Travis Rosen, who not only finished fourth overall in Las Vegas, but will be making a return trip.  Outliers are always to be expected, as subtly noted by the two lines denoting ages of SASUKE All-Stars, and this is before we talk about Owner-san.

Kacy Catanzaro was good and maybe lucky

gif courtesy:

This degree of outlier is one we haven’t seen in maybe 15 years.  There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the former gymnast from Towson University has the tools required to complete any stage of Ninja Warrior.  While speed, strength, endurance, are all tools in the ninja’s belt, one that doesn’t always come up is luck.  You can’t be exact 100% of the time, so there is a good chance that something out of your hands will help determine your fate. Catanzaro certainly showed her bona fides in Dallas when she completed the Finals course, but she was one of nine to do, more than any other city, and which resulted in the highest Finals clear rate (30%) than any other city.

To be fair, we are likely dealing with a sample size too small to make a definitive judgement one way or another (which is why Kacy turning in the slowest time of all 31 clearers shouldn’t be bothersome either), and my personal expectations and concerns are no different than any male competitor (especially since she was part of The Big Show last season),  but it’s a reminder for when margins for error are razor thin, fortune may play a bigger role than you think.

ANW is a couple years behind SASUKE and that’s okay

ANW 4, the series’ first stand-alone season in 2012, was pretty much a carbon copy of SASUKE 27 (October 2011), except for Stage 3, which was SASUKE 25 (March 2010) but with Hang Climbing.  Since then, not much on the course has changed, and with SASUKE 30 now in the books, many of the ANW 6 obstacles have been removed or made tougher for SASUKE Rising.  And you know what? I’m fine with that.  The Jumping Spider and Halfpipe Attack are two of the most dynamic and interesting obstacles in Stage 1’s history, and I don’t mind that NBC keeps them installed.  After all, there will still be changes to keep the course fresh, it’s only a question of what may get changed.

The next five weeks are going to be awesome.

As I mentioned before, this is one of the best competitions on TV.  We at OTDT are going to be glued to our seats and we hope you’ll join us. As part of the fun, we’ll be doing another dual live-post on August 18th for the 9PM ET broadcast.  Twitter will have a spoiler feed while Facebook will be mostly spoiler-free.

No matter what the results of the next five weeks, it’s going to be one hell of a ride, and I certainly hope you’re going to be on it.