Obstacle Illusion

Adam Grossman says that when competing on “American Ninja Warrior,” participants have very little margin for error. (Provided)
Adam Grossman says that when competing on “American Ninja Warrior,” participants have very little margin for error. (Provided)

Adam Grossman knows what’s at stake.

One slip, one lost grip, one poor jump. That’s all it takes to be eliminated from contention on “American Ninja Warrior,” an all-around athletic contest that has aired on NBC, and its sister network, G4, since 2009.

However, that demanding physical challenge is what keeps Grossman, 29, coming back for more. Owner of six high school track and field state titles while at Pikesville High School and eight conference titles while at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Grossman has always relished competition.

However, “American Ninja Warrior” is in a league of its own.

A spinoff of the Japanese television program “Sasuke,” which translates to “ninja warrior,” “American Ninja Warrior” presents competitors — who range from professional athletes to stuntmen to athletic trainers — with uber-ridiculous obstacle courses that test all facets of their athletic prowess.

And, in 2012, Grossman, an environmental engineer with the Navy,  nearly proved up to the challenge, advancing all the way to the national finals in Las Vegas before being eliminated.


This year, he’s back at it again. On Monday, Aug. 5 at 8 p.m., NBC will air an episode of the “American Ninja Warrior” regional finals, and viewers will see if Grossman can make a return trip to Vegas.

Although the show was taped in June, Grossman is contractually obligated not to divulge the results. However, he was allowed to sit down with the JT to talk about the experience and how it’s unlike any other athletic challenge he’s ever faced.

JT: How would you sum up the show?
Grossman: “American Ninja Warrior” is probably the most challenging
obstacle course on the planet. … You have to have balance, speed, endurance, explosiveness. You have to have really good grip strength. You have to know how to adapt because there will be times when you approach something you’ve never seen or you’re going through an obstacle and you slip and have to recover. The coolest thing is, even though it’s very difficult, it’s something I think anyone can do.

How did you find out about/get involved in the show?  
I was channel surfing with my dad, and we came across it. We just became enamored with it and were like, “This is really, really neat.”

What drew you in?
It was very different. There were a lot of skills that I had that you would need for the course. There were certainly things I was missing, too. There was a lot of explosiveness needed to jump to the next obstacle, and you have to be able to climb. I wasn’t an expert climber by any means, but climbing came naturally to me. I was thinking, “Hey, this might be something I could do.”

What’s the biggest challenge?
You have to advance through each obstacle, and if you fall in the water you’re [eliminated] … even if your foot just skims the water. That’s where a lot of the challenge comes in, at least in the first stage. The obstacles are within the ability of most of the competitors, it’s just that there is very little room for error.

What kind of pressure comes from that do-or-die nature?
Everyone’s nervous about that. Everyone says, “Don’t fall on the first obstacle. Don’t slip.” If they have to fall, they want to fall because the obstacle is beyond their ability, not because they slipped.

Are you the kind of person who’s always looking for a challenge?
I certainly do it for the challenge, the camaraderie and everything like that. There’s also a $500,000 prize [which no contestant has won in four prior seasons] if you can beat all four stages, but I don’t really think about that. It’s just a lot of fun to do and a great way to stay in shape.

Any nerves that go along with being taped for national TV?
When you’re on the course, you don’t notice [the cameras] at all.

You are single. Do you ever introduce yourself to women as a ninja warrior?
If I’m on a date … and they ask what my hobbies are, I mention it. I don’t get too detailed, because I can easily get carried away. I just say it’s what I do, and if someone inquires more about it, I’ll tell them more.

Are you competing more against your fellow competitors or the course?
It’s definitely more you versus the course. It’s even more us versus the course’s designers.

Any other standout memories?
Hitting that buzzer [which signifies completing the course] for the very first time was something I’ll never forget. It was almost surreal. I got to the top of the obstacle that took me out the year before. I beat it, hit the buzzer and I couldn’t believe it.

Is this something you want to do in the years to come?
If I can keep qualifying, I want to do it as long as [NBC] has the show.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter

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