This summer, over 70,000 people will apply and compete to become the Season 8 American Ninja Warrior, starting with the show's season premiere June 1st at 8pm on NBC. ANW's challenges test both the physical and emotional limits of the athletes -- and very often the audience at home as well.
To prepare for the crazy-strong new season, we enlisted the Armchair Ninja Podcast's Richard Carroll to rank the most memorable and emotional moments from the past few seasons, highlighting the inspiring feats of strength that keep us coming back for more. Because even when the warriors fall, we love watching them rise up for their redemption.
10. Flip Rodriguez disqualified for tapping the water
Season 6, Episode 6, "Miami Qualifying"
A veteran top competitor and fan favorite, Rodriguez underestimated how close he was to the water and accidentally touched it with his backside. This got him cut from the competition in the qualifying round, and nearly led the visibly devastated Flip to quit the sport completely. Commentators called the moment "unthinkable" -- and it reminded Ninja hopefuls that not even a pro's status in the competition is ever certain.
9. Sam Sann scales the warped wall with an injured leg
Season 5, Episode 7, "Denver Qualifying"
In his mid-40s, Sann was one of the older ninjas on the course. After injuring himself on the Delta Bridge, it did not look like he would be able to continue the course. Somehow, he was able to push through the pain, climb the warped wall, and become an icon of the sport in the process.
8. Yusuke Morimoto finishes the Stage 3 course
Season 6, Episode 15, "USA vs. the World"
Six seasons in, no American athlete had ever completed the incredibly difficult Stage 3 course. During the international competition that followed the regular ANW season, Morimoto from Japan finally demonstrated that it could be done, and American Brian Arnold quickly replicated the feat.
7. Michael Stanger completes the course for his wife
Season 7, Episode 2, "Kansas City Qualifiers"
When his wife was diagnosed with a rare, terminal genetic disorder, Michael found that he needed to be more fit in order to take care of her properly. The Stangers set a goal for him to compete on American Ninja Warrior to help his progress. Every season has tragic and inspirational stories, but Michael was able to do what so many could not. He climbed the warped wall, bringing his wife and millions of fans to tears.
6. Meagan Martin completes the Jumping Spider
Season 6, Episode 12, "National Finals in Las Vegas, Part 1"
The Jumping Spider regularly takes out even the most accomplished ninjas year after year. Martin was able to do what no other woman had done in Vegas -- in her rookie year, no less. Although stuntwoman Luci Romberg had beaten the obstacle in Japan many years earlier, for modern ANW fans, this was a tremendous milestone for women in the sport. Host Akbar's excited reaction was echoed around the country.
5. Brent Steffensen completes the Ultimate Cliffhanger
Season 4, Las Vegas Finals (Stage 3)
In the first season that Mount Midoriyama was built in America, it looked like none of the ninjas would get to attempt Stage 3. Only Brent was able to, completing Stage 2 at the very last minute and moving on. Not only did he progress, he excelled, and his completion of the Ultimate Cliffhanger was a new milestone for the Americans. This provided a terrific ending for the then-newly revitalized show and ensured that audiences would want to see more the next year.
4. Kevin Bull goes upside down to defeat Cannonball Alley
Season 6, Venice City Finals
It's hard to remember that Kevin was a walk-on when he completed one of the most amazing and iconic moves in ANW history. After the new and difficult obstacle took out all 14 previous athletes to make the attempt, it seemed like it might actually be impossible to complete. Getting creative, Kevin grabbed the third ball with his feet, swinging back and forth while upside down before flipping over and safely landing on the other side.
3. Geoff Britten completes Stage 3 by the tips of his fingers
Season 7, "Vegas Finals, Part 3"
In a fantastic display of mind over body, Geoff Britten completed the Stage 3 course through sheer willpower and the tips of his fingers. On the Flying Bar, where many top competitors had failed before, Geoff's grip loosened on the very last bar, and he nearly fell. Summoning up the last of his strength, he somehow launched to the final platform and collapsed, bringing the Vegas crowd to their feet.
2. Kacy Catanzaro becomes the first woman to finish a City Finals course
Season 6, Dallas City Finals
Kacy broke down barriers for female athletes twice in one season. Despite being only 5ft tall, she became the first woman to complete the 14ft warped wall and progressed to the City Finals. What happened next transformed the sport and inspired millions of women and young girls around the world. By completing the very difficult course, Catanzaro showed that there are no limits to what you can accomplish, least of all height or gender, if you work hard and believe in yourself.
1. Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten are the "First American Ninja Warriors" -- depending on who you ask
No other moment in American Ninja Warrior history sparked as much emotion as the Season 7 Vegas Finale. Fans were angered and confused by the rules, ecstatic over Geoff and Isaac's accomplishments, and heartbroken with the all-or-nothing final results.
In a controversial finish that still divides fans nearly a year later, Isaac and Geoff competed for the $1 million prize, which, ultimately, only one of them could win. Geoff climbed the 75ft rope first and, remarkably, managed to do it under the 30-second limit given, earning him the title of "First American Ninja Warrior" in many people's eyes. Isaac followed and was able to beat Geoff's time by several seconds, winning the cash prize and making him the "First American Ninja Warrior" to many others.
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