12:00pm PT by Kimberly Nordyke
'American Ninja Warrior Junior' Taps Victoria Arlen as Co-Host for Season 2 (Exclusive)
American Ninja Warrior Junior has a new co-host for its upcoming second season on Universal Kids, NBCUniversal's kid-focused network.
Universal Kids has tapped Victoria Arlen, former champion Paralympian swimmer and TV broadcaster, to co-host season two alongside Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila. She's stepping in for gymnast Laurie Hernandez, who co-hosted season one but is currently training for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
American Ninja Warrior Junior kicks off production this month in Los Angeles for an early 2020 premiere.
"I am so honored to join the American Ninja Warrior Junior family,’ said Arlen. “I’m a longtime fan of American Ninja Warrior, and I’m excited to co-host alongside the amazingly talented Matt and Akbar. To share and celebrate these remarkable kids' stories is inspiring and a tremendous honor. I can't wait to cheer them on!"
Arlen has her own inspirational story of overcoming adversity: At age 11, she was diagnosed with two rare conditions — transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis — which left her in a vegetative state for four years.
In 2010, she began the road back to recovery, learning how to speak, eat and move all over again. Defying the odds, she is now fully recovered and became a champion swimmer, setting a world record at the 2012 Summer Paralympics U.S. swimming trials and going on to win four medals — one gold, three silver — at the Paralympics later that year.
In 2015, she joined ESPN as one of its youngest regular reporters ever and two years later competed on Dancing With the Stars. Her memoir, Locked In: The Will to Survive and the Resolve to Live, was published last year and was the subject of the ESPN Films documentary (of the same name) that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. She also became the face of Jockey in 2018.
"Victoria Arlen exemplifies the American Ninja Warrior Junior spirit," said Arthur Smith, CEO of A. Smith & Co. Productions and executive producer of the American Ninja Warrior franchise. "In this brand new season, she will use her unique voice and life experience to inspire a new generation. Get ready to witness the remarkable feats that kids can accomplish, defying the odds of what is possible and striving to be their best."
American Ninja Warrior Junior shows real kid athletes taking on the iconic course. More than 140 boy and girl competitors from across the U.S. will face off on head-to-head courses in three age brackets: 9 & 10, 11 & 12, and 13 & 14.
The courses will feature new obstacles, and each age bracket will be mentored by "All-Star Ninja Mentors" Drew Drechsel, Najee Richardson, Barclay Stockett, Meagan Martin, Grant McCartney and Jessie Graff. Three final winners (one per age bracket) will be crowned champions.
The Daytime Emmy-nominated series is based on the international hit Sasuke from Tokyo Broadcasting System Television and has had 36 seasons in Japan. The series is executive produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions founders Arthur Smith and Kent Weed along with Matt Cahoon.
The entire first season is available on Universal Kids on demand.
Arlen is repped by UTA and managed by Patrick Quinn of Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners.