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It’s the moment American Ninja Warrior diehards have been waiting for: phenom Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to climb the Warped Wall, returns to the course during Monday’s qualifying round in Houston.
Last season, the tiny but mighty Catanzaro became the first woman to climb the show’s famed Warped Wall in a moment that turned the former gymnast into the a global face for the reality competition after her tremendous feat went viral.
Here, Catanzaro and her five-foot frame take on the course in her first run of the season, as she sets her sights on returning to the Las Vegas Finals for another shot at the untamed 80-foot Mount Midoriyama. In addition to the exclusive clip, below, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Catanzaro to discuss being an inspiration for other competitors, how her training changed after she was knocked out of last year’s finals on the Spider Crawl and this season’s new challenges.
How did your training change after going out on the Spider Wall last season?
Last season was really awesome, and even though you feel like you’re at the top there’s always that next step. I didn’t want to let my training slip, but it’s been hard since I’ve been traveling so much. It’s been difficult to keep up with the training but I’ve been working hard to make sure I keep my strength training consistent. No matter what town we happen to be in, I try to find a rock climbing or free-running gym near by and keep attacking those aspects that you need to keep sharp on in order to do well. We have a Spider Wall at our gym but it’s not quite as far apart as the one on American Ninja Warrior. Working on that and making a good jump from the trampoline and everything that that entails.
What kind of pressure did you put on yourself this year to top your performance from last season?
I do pretty well with pressure, having grown up competing in gymnastics. You always have your teammates behind you that you didn’t want to let down so you were always doing it for more than just yourself. I feel that same way with Ninja Warrior. I didn’t so much feel pressure that I needed to do better but I didn’t want to disappoint anybody. That feeling does lead to putting pressure on yourself but I try to not think of it that way. I try to think that I want to go out and do what I’m capable of and hope that people enjoy cheering for me, not just because I did well last year but because of who I am, and that they will continue to like me even if I didn’t do the same thing again. It’s definitely a lot of pressure going in, and I can definitely feel those moments where I have butterflies. But that’s when I remember that it’s just me and the course and to do what I’m capable of.
Last season was a huge year for women on the show. What kind of feedback have you heard from fans after your run went viral?
I’ve gotten a lot of awesome feedback, especially from women who said they never thought they could try it … but now that they’ve seen my run, they know they can. I love that I’ve broken this barrier to allow other people to follow their dreams and be able to be a bit more confident and give them that boost. We all have our things that people look at as disadvantages and think of things that make us approach things differently but now they know they can’t let that hold them back. I love getting that message across. When someone comes up to me in an airport or grocery store and says that I’m the reason they’re getting up off the couch, that’s my favorite kind of feedback. If you can inspire just one person, then I feel like you’ve done a good job.
This season is already proving to be a tough year for women. What have you seen that’s different this season aside from some of the obstacles?
They’re really coming out with a lot of new obstacles, both of the regions that we’ve seen so far in qualifying, three of them have been brand new that none of us have seen before. Nobody has them built in their backyard and is able to practice on them. I think it’s great because it brings back that surprise to us, and that knowledge that we have to train and be ready to do anything they throw at us. They have a lot of grip straight stuff but those balance obstacles and some of the jumps and things that are in there as parts of the new obstacles are definitely proven to always be tough.
Watch Catanzaro’s Monday run, below.
American Ninja Warrior airs Mondays on NBC. Stay tuned to THR‘s The Live Feed for more from Catanzaro following her run Monday.
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