Normally I define “sports” as activities involving sweat, sprints and the occasional DUI. It’s easy to forget sometimes that the Lloyd Dobler’s out there could be right: kickboxing really did turn out to be the sport of the future. Some of the most worth-watching athletic pursuits may be more basic than baby mama drama.
So when my friend Salil Maniktahla, who with his wife Malikah owns the Urban Evolution gym chain, told me about Kacy Catanzaro’s performance on NBC’s “America Ninja Warrior,” I stopped my eyeballs mid-roll and tuned in.
Besides, mid-July is a terrible time for sports fans. When baseball takes its mid-season break, there is nothing on but the British Open and the Tour de France—neither of which I’m watching at 3am. This had to be better than all-Lebron, all the time.
And wow was Salil right. “#MightyKacy” – a 5-foot, 100-pound former Division I gymnast – became the first woman to complete the ANW regional final obstacle course in Dallas last week. And if you haven’t seen the video, I mean, wow. This pint-sized powerhouse, who gives her “free runner” boyfriend a run for his money training each day, pulls moves I haven’t seen SEALs master. Better yet, her performance not only went crazy viral, but it shows that women can compete in the most grueling of environments.
“These obstacles are meant to be difficult for athletes in peak condition,” says Salil, whose gym teaches parkour, gymnastics, breakdancing and all the other stuff that was fun when we were kids before real life came along and ruined it all.
“There’s some bias towards men in the course design: lots of tests of hanging, upper body strength, and grip strength, and there are situations where physical reach (or “wingspan,” as many people call it) is a factor. So it’s really remarkable that a 5-foot woman (who admittedly is in great condition and has worked hard, and is a Division 1 gymnast) has done so well on the course. You can’t help but root for her, because she’s exactly who we all want to win.”
Next she moves on to the finals in Las Vegas, on the U.S. version of “Mount Midoriyama,” an obstacle course designed based on the original Japanese series, and which is considered the most difficult in the world. The first Mount Midoriyama has been tried 2,700 times and completed only four times—twice by the same person.
But a $500,000 grand prize—and proving that women rock at rock-climbing and more—will be enough motivation. Go Kacy!