By ASHLEY INGE
DALLAS (July 23, 2018) – Tarleton grad, Brittany Hanks, is competing in her third year of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.
According to NBC.com, American Ninja Warrior follows competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country. Those who successfully complete the finals course in their designated region move on to the national finals round in Las Vegas, where they face a stunning four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan. The winner will take home a grand prize of $1 million.
Hanks realized she wanted to join American Ninja Warrior when her friends started tagging her in videos of Kacy Catanzaro when she first got up the Warped Wall in season six of the show.
“Everybody was like, ‘Oh Brittany! You’re 5 foot 1. You’re a gymnast. You could do that,’ and I was like ‘Aww maybe,’ so that’s really what peaked my interest was seeing someone my size be able to do all of this stuff that all of the guys were doing so I was like, ‘Huh, maybe I should try it.’ It was definitely super inspiring to watch her do that for sure.” Hanks said. “After watching for six seasons, I think a lot of people were waiting for the women and after she did that, I just think it opened so many more doors for women to want to try to compete, and it just goes to show that we can be just as strong as the guys.”
Hanks explained that the application process can get lengthy.
“Depending on how long you want to sit at the computer, it usually takes me about a week to two weeks to get (the application) done because they ask you everything you can possibly think of — about your family, about what inspires you, all sorts of things like that. Then, along with that, you also have to make a two to three-minute video,” Hanks said.
The video is one of the most crucial parts of the selection process.
“One of the key things that we learned over the years is that they like to see you talk to the camera.” Hanks said. “Obviously, it’s reality TV first so if you can’t speak to a camera, they usually don’t pick you because you have to be able to get people excited and things like that. When you make your video, you have to show them bits of your training and then also bits of you talking so they know that you can talk and also that you’re strong enough to do the obstacles. The applications open every November and we get about 3 months to do it. It’s normally due in January.”
This is Hanks third year competing on American Ninja Warrior and she explained how she did throughout the other years competing.
“My first year, I didn’t do so hot. I went out on the second obstacle which was awful. Actually, that year no women made it past the third obstacle in the city that we were in so that was really devastating,” Hanks said. “My second year, we competed in San Antonio and they made a new rule that year where the top five women got to go to the city finals, and the top two women from the city finals got to go to Vegas so they changed the rules a little bit because I think people wanted to see more women so with that, I actually made the finals that year. I actually ended up getting third so I didn’t get to go to Vegas, unfortunately. This year, we competed in Dallas and I made it to the finals.”
Since this is Hanks third year to compete, she has tried to incorporate more training into her regimen. She usually tries to lift weights two to three times a week, she tumbles at a gymnastics gym about once a week and she also started rock climbing more heavily.
“I tried to be very versatile this year so that I could be prepared for just about anything,” Hanks said.
Hanks graduated from Tarleton in the spring of 2016 and majored in biomedical science. Hanks was actually in Dr. Meik’s Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy class right before she got the call letting her know she would be on the show.
“Everybody started getting their phone calls, and I was really anxious,” Hanks said. “I looked at Dr. Meik because we were in there for like a study session and I told him, ‘I gotta go. I can’t concentrate anymore,’ and he knew what was going on so he was like, ‘Okay,’ and he let me leave. Walking down the street in between the nursing building and the rec, I got my phone call and I screamed in the middle of the street. Everybody probably thought I was crazy, but that was epic. Who wouldn’t be excited to get a phone call from American Ninja Warrior? It was really awesome.”
Hanks said her biggest challenge throughout the show isn’t actually the obstacles.
“It’s not so much even the obstacles that are challenging; it’s ‘Can you put it together when you’re supposed to put it together?’ When we practice, we practice individual obstacles, so it’s ‘Can you do it right the first time, not mess it up and get all the way through and hit the buzzer?’ That’s probably one of the most nerve-wracking and challenging things for sure,” Hanks said.
Hanks said she is blessed to have the opportunity to compete on this show.
“This sport has brought me so much joy and brought me so much closer in getting to know so many people around the world now and also from different countries and things of that sort,” Hanks said. “This sport is so much different from anything else. You don’t boo for one person and root for the other. In this sport, we are competing against each other, but we’re not. It’s not us against each other; it’s us against the obstacle course. It doesn’t matter who’s up at the starting line, — even if you don’t know them — everybody’s there and everybody is cheering for them because everybody wants to beat the same obstacles. We’re all there with the exact same goal. Overall, it’s been an amazing experience and it’s probably changed my life in more ways than I can possibly count.”
Hanks biggest inspiration throughout the show has been her grandfather.
“When I applied, I originally was running for my deceased grandfather. He inspired me through school. He was a retired dentist so he took a lot of the same classes I had to take. He actually had a professor tell him that he wasn’t smart enough to be a dentist and I actually went through that with a professor at Tarleton,” Hanks said. “I had a couple of professors put me down and say that I wasn’t smart enough to do what I wanted to do and he always told me, ‘If that’s what you want to do with your life, then keep pushing forward, and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.’”
It’s also because of her grandfather that her name is Blue Ninja on the show.
“(My grandfather’s) favorite color was blue, so that’s kind’ve where I got my inspiration from in the beginning was from him. I knew if I felt like quitting, if I felt like I couldn’t do it, I just knew I had to keep thinking, ‘Yes. Yes, I could.’ He was a wonderful man. I definitely wish he could’ve seen me run; he would’ve loved it,” Hanks said.
For individuals who also want to audition for American Ninja Warrior, Hanks advises them to never give up.
“I would definitely say don’t ever think that you’re not strong enough,” Hanks said. “Get in the gym. There are ninja gyms around the area so you can try different obstacles out. I would definitely say start with a lot of pushups and pullups. Pullups are going to be your best friend when you’re training for this show. The more upper body strength you have, lifting your body weight, the better off you’re going to be. But just pick a starting point. You’re going to fail a lot and you’re going to be defeated a lot, but just don’t ever let it get to a point where you feel so defeated that you think you can’t do it. You just have to keep coming back and keep trying until you do succeed and that’s how this sport is. You have to try on an obstacle a thousand times before you get it one time.”
“One of the most nerve-wracking things for us getting up there is, you have to take it one step at a time,” Hanks added. “You have to qualify for the city finals, and then you have to qualify for nationals, so getting to say that I’m one of the top five women in my city and there are six cities so there’s 30 women in the whole country that get to be in that spot, it’s pretty amazing. It makes me feel like all of the training that I’ve done has paid off so it’s definitely incredible.”
Watch to see if Hanks will advance to nationals. The Dallas city finals are Monday night at 7 p.m. on NBC, Channel 5 locally.
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