Night 2 of 'American Ninja Warrior' Vegas finals made Jessie Graff's run shine even brighter
Some things get better with age. One week after Jessie Graff's historic run, I have a whole new appreciation for what she accomplished.
The second night of the Las Vegas national finals brought more surprising falls than it did finishes. Geoff Britten fell on the first obstacle, and Brent Steffensen and Meagan Martin failed to make it past the Giant Log Grip. There were only 17 total finishers, the fewest of any of the seasons in the show's current format.
Graff's run placed her fifth on the leader board, ahead of esteemed ninjas like Drew Drechsel, Nicholas Coolridge, Flip Rodriguez and Grant McCartney. The fact that she completed Stage 1 in a year when so many did not further cements her status as one of the top ninjas in the game.
Perhaps more importantly, Graff's run proved that women are capable of beating Stage 1, though she has known that for a long time.
In our Q&A last week, Graff said, "As far as being the first woman to do it, there are more women than ever who are fully capable of doing what I did, and even more. I'm grateful that it came together for me on the right night, and looking forward to seeing more women hit that buzzer in the future."
The 18 women who ran Stage 1 each have the physical ability to finish a course, but hitting a buzzer is about more than just being capable. The types of obstacles and the order they're in matter just as much as being able to physically carry one's body weight.
Although no women joined Graff this season, more certainly will.
Vegas Stage 1 (Night 2) specs:
Finishers: 9 (17 total)
Female finishers: 0
Women moving on: 0
New or modified obstacles: 4 of 8 (note: the Night 2 course was identical to the Night 1 course)
Unlike the city qualifying and finals courses, Stages 1 and 2 are timed. In Stage 1, ninjas had 2 minutes, 20 seconds to complete the eight obstacles.
The first obstacle, Snake Run, is new. Competitors traverse the steps, choosing their own path to get to the next platform. They are deceptively difficult and caused problems for even the most experienced ninjas.
The Propeller Bar returns as the second obstacle. Ninjas jump from a trampoline to a hanging propeller. Then they must transfer to a rope and swing to the next platform.
Next is the all-new Giant Log Grip. Competitors wrap their bodies around a log and ride it to the end of the track, where they must drop onto a small platform in the water. Timing is everything with this obstacle. Just a small dip into the water ends a ninja's season.
The fourth obstacle is the Jumping Spider, a notorious ninja killer. Ninjas use a trampoline to jump into a suspended hallway. Bracing themselves against either wall, they must hop through the channel to the next platform.
Sonic Curve is another returning obstacle. Competitors run along the steps, which are several feet apart and follow a curve, toward a rope, which they use to swing to the next platform.
Awaiting competitors at the sixth obstacle is the familiar Warped Wall, only this time, athletes get just half the run-up space.
Ninjas who get this far face another new obstacle, Broken Bridge. Competitors run over a series of disconnected steps that swing beneath their feet.
The last obstacle, the Flying Squirrel, is also new. Competitors jump to a pair of suspended handles and use the momentum to lache to another pair. Then they jump to a cargo net, which they climb to the top platform, where they hit the buzzer.
If they do all of that in under 2:20, they move onto Stage 2.
Next week is the season finale. All eyes will be back on Jessie Graff as she becomes the first woman to take on Stage 2. Oh, and some guys are running too.