This week is another special episode of American Ninja Warrior with USA vs The World. Team USA, featuring the first female member Jessie Graf, faces off with Team Europe and Team Latin America. Stage 1 is similar to the obstacles from Stage 1 of last season with a shorter run up for the Warped Wall.
First heat has Daniel Gil for Team USA. With only a slight misstep on the Sonic Steps, he lands with a minute and forty-seven seconds. Team Europe’s Captain is forced to sit out due to injury, so Bjarke Tonnesen from Denmark replaces him. Unfortunately, he goes out in the first obstacle. For Latin America, Wid Eriksen of Mexico makes to the Jumping Spider and fails. With Gil being the only one to finish the first stage, Team USA gains a point and wins heat 1.
Heat 2 starts with Owen McKenzie from London and Ninja Warrior UK. He has a slight problem with the Sonic Steps, but takes four tries at Warped Wall despite his 6-foot 2-inch frame. He completes the course with a time of 2:38. Karl Fow is up for Latin America, hailing from Venezuela. He flies through the first obstacle and just loses his grip transitioning from the propeller to the rope, falling into the water. Jake Murray is up last for USA. After almost losing it at Log Grip. he makes a fantastic save with only his arms at the Jumping Spider. He ran through the rest of the course and won the heat with a time of 1:28, putting USA up 2-0-0.
Heat 3 starts with Alexander Mars from Sweden and for the second year in a row he gets eliminated at the Jumping Spider. Jessie Graf tackles the first stage for USA next. In a shocking turn of events, she loses her balance on the Snake Run and is out early. Team Latin America’s Danee Marmolejo from Mexico has a wide open opportunity with both of his competitors out. He got past the Log Run in shorter time than Mars and completed the Jumping Spider to earn a point for Latin America. He continued through the rest of the course, falling into the water at the Flying Squirrel.
With that point, the score is 2-1-0 with USA in the lead after Stage 1. The best performance of Stage 1 has definitely been Jake Murray who just destroyed Europe’s time in Heat 2, but Owen McKenzie did well for being one of the tallest competitors. It was odd that it took him so long to get up the Warped Wall. He seemed to have lost steam by that point. Stamina is key to running this course. Jessie’s quick end in Heat 3 was disappointing, but she still makes history as the first woman on Team USA.
In Stage 2, it’s similar to Stage 2 from the finals last season with some modifications like the Salmon Ladder having an opposite grip and going 3 down and 3 up. Team USA’s Brian Arnold is up first in Heat 1. He is just killing the course and faces The Wedge, which took him out of the National Finals. He once again loses it on The Wedge after getting stuck. Diego Gonzales of Mexico is the top climber in his homeland, winning 3 national titles in climbing. He spends a bit of time on the Ring Swing. He makes through to the Wave Runner and end in a splash. Next up for Europe is Sean McColl, who has 9 world championships in climbing and undefeated in Stage 2. With both competitors not completing the course, he just has to make it past The Wedge to earn 2 points for his team. He has a slight problem with the Salmon Ladder, but makes it. Taking his time though the course, he has to complete the Double Wedge and does. After earning the two points, he kept going and hit the buzzer to complete the course. Making the score 2-2-1 with Europe and USA tied at the moment.
Karl Fow is back up for Heat 2 and a newbie to Stage 2. He misses the transition from the Ring Swing and fails. Daniel Gil for USA gets past the transition in a faster time, eliminating Fow. Being one of the only two to complete Stage 2 last season, he takes his time through the course, but ends his run at the wedge like Brian Arnold. Team Europe just has to complete the Double Wedge faster than Gil to earn the two points and the lead. Stephano Ghisolfi of Italy is the last of the second heat. A quick mess up on the Ring Swing forces him to slow his pace. He quickens at the Wave Runner. With the dismount off of the Double Wedge, Ghisolfi gets two more points for his team and he finishes out the course. Europe is now in the lead with the 4 points earned this stage with USA second with 2 and Latin America last with 1 point.
In the third and final heat, David Saikin of Argentina goes for Team Latin America. After taking too long to get through the very first Ring, he is thrown off for the whole obstacle falls near the end. Europe’s Bjarke Tonnesen makes it through the Ring Swing, eliminating Saikin. He falls at the top of the Salmon Ladder, clearing the way for a redemption run by Jessie Graf. Drew Drechsel was supposed to go, but he gave Jessie his spot who gets the two points for USA and keeps going. She almost slipped in the Wave Runner, but makes the transition and completes an obstacle she had issues with last season. Jessie makes it to the Double Wedge where her teammates failed earlier. She almost followed the but corrected herself and dismounted. After getting past the last obstacle and makes history by hitting the buzzer and completing Stage 2. She’s the only woman to finish Stage 2 and earned the Pom Wonderful Run of the Night and that it was. She ties it up with Europe at 4 and Latin America being last with 1 point.
Oh man oh man… Jessie Graf absolutely crushed the second stage. Without her performance, this would have been a very poor stage outing for everyone. Jessie, Ghisolfi and McColl being the only ones to finish the course. Latin America fails horribly throughout this stage with none of them being familiar with the obstacles. The Europeans ended up doing better than the Americans overall this stage. McColl is a guy to watch.
For the first heat of Stage 3, Josh Levin of USA is making his debut in this particular episode. He was the only finisher in the LA City Finals last season. This stage is all about finishing the furthest the fastest with no time limit. He slowly but surely completes obstacle after obstacle. He makes a great transition at the Ultimate Cliffhanger. He makes it through the Body Drop and has gone further than anyone on this version of Stage 3, getting to the walking bar. He transitions to the Flying Bar and masterfully makes it through the obstacle and hits the buzzer at 6:41. He becomes the first person to complete the revamped Stage 3. Latin America’s Santiago de Alba failed at the Body Drop during the commercial break. Alexander Mars moves at a breakneck pace, but loses it at the Walking Bar. That puts USA in the lead after earning 3 points with 7 overall.
In Heat 2, Stephano Ghisolfi tries to repeat on stage 3 what he did on stage 2, but loses it at the Ultimate Cliffhanger. David Saikin has to win this heat for Latin America or they are mathematical eliminated. And he fails to complete the Ultimate Cliffhanger after going too slow on the Boards. USA’s Brian Arnold is last for this heat. He needs to either beat Ghisolfi’s time on the Floating Boards or complete the Ultimate Cliffhanger to earn 3 points and a win for Team USA. He goes too slow on the Floating Boards, forcing him to finish the Ultimate Cliffhanger. He transitions swiftly until the dismount where he misses the pad. That means Ghisolfi’s time earns Europe 3 points and ties them with USA at 7 points.
Now the title comes down to USA’s Drew Drechsel and Europe’s Sean McColl in the third and final heat. This is a winner takes all heat with Latin America essentially out of the running. With Gonzales losing it at the Walking Bar, McColl makes his run but fails on the Body Drop obstacle. McColl’s performance sets up a possibility for USA to win. Drew Drechsel just has to get further than Gonzales and USA wins the title. Drew will have a difficult time since he failed at the Hang Climb last season. He’ll need to complete that obstacle to make it to the Walking Bar. He quickly makes work of the first two obstacles as he listens to his music. He changes the song before the Body Prop. He completes that and redeems himself on the Hang Climb, earning the 3 points and the title. He continues on through the course and attempts to finish it and he does. Team USA wins the title for the second year in a row. He reveals that he was listening to “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You” from the Mulan Soundtrack.
Drew Drechsel put team USA on his back in the final heat as team captain. He gave Jessie Graf his spot in Stage 2, so that he was fresh for the last stage. A risky choice, but he had to being one of the only people on the team to face Stage 3. Brian Arnold ended up not doing so well, failing to get past the Double Wedge in Stage 2 and missing the pad after the Ultimate Cliffhanger and a chance to clinch the title. But the rest of the team performed great. Everyone had their moment like Gil and Murray in Stage 1, Jessie in Stage 2 and Levin and Drew in the final stage. Team USA, despite its setbacks, had a terrific performance. Hopefully, Latin America starts practicing on some of these obstacles so that they can be more of a challenge next time. I do wish Japan was involved this year, but those are the breaks. Great episode and a big Thumbs Up from me. I can’t wait for the new season next week.