The obstacle courses are grueling on NBC’s hit show “American Ninja Warrior.” And the training for contestants is even more so, especially for one contestant from North Carolina.
In a U.S. Army full of American warriors, Captain Stephen Smay with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Bragg hopes to be the first ninja warrior. Smay loves the show — a love that’s shared by his family since the first time they saw it on WNCN.
“I was watching it with my wife, and it just looked like fun to me,” Smay said. “I looked over at her, and said ‘I can do this.’ She agreed, but thought I needed to actually train up a little bit for it. Focus on it.”
That opportunity to focus came in August of last year, the start of his nine-month tour in Afghanistan.
While there, Smay put together a video to apply to be on the show. In part of it, he wears his full uniform, complete with his firearms and climbs the underside of metal stairs saying, “I use the environment where I can, but I’ve also drawn on my skills as an army engineer to construct some obstacles of my own.” Those constructions included the 14-foot tall warped wall that he built by hand.
In April, Smay found out that he made the cut.
“You can’t just call to Afghanistan,” Smay said with a smile. “So they sent me an email and said, ‘Please call us at your earliest convenience.'”
Always an engineer, Smay kept a close eye on his nine-month progress racking up 10,000 pull-ups and 263 miles. But he knows stats will only take him so far.
“I have no idea if it’s enough,” Smay said. “The course is so demanding and it’s very challenging that even for all that I did for nine months while I was there focused on it, I still don’t know if it’s going to be enough.”
He says ultimately the show is about pushing yourself to the limit.
“It’s a story of man versus self,” Smay said. “It’s not like a traditional sporting event where you have one team fighting against another and someone is going to come out on top.”
“With this, we root for everybody,” Smay added. “It’s really for that individual to conquer their own limitations.”
And regardless of the outcome of the show, now that he’s home with his wife and four kids, Smay says he’s already won.
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