ALEXANDRIA, VA–The popular NBC television show, American Ninja Warrior (ANW), was cancelled last year, as were practically all other competition shows and sporting events. Now, over one year later, American Ninja Warrior has been approved for its 2021 season, and an Alexandria resident is to try the course.
Will Wong, Alexandria resident, auditioned for the 2020 season of ANW, which was to be held at the D.C. Armory. A talented track cyclist and former semi-competitive rock climber, Will was urged by friends and family to apply. Will loves to challenge himself, so he said, “I wanted to pursue something that was completely different from what I am used to doing.”
Will applied for ANW at the end of January 2020, the application being incomplete and 7 weeks overdue. Nonetheless, within 4 hours of his submission, Will received a phone call: he was accepted! His friends had lauded him, “They don’t just call anyone.” So, at 49 years old, Will was to be one of the oldest contestants, and one of the most exciting to watch.
When he started his training at NOVA Ninja in Sterling, VA, Will was off to a promising start, “I had a lot more ability than I thought I did.” But alas, the Coronavirus spread quickly, and Will chose not to return to NOVA Ninja, as the pandemic shut down the entire ANW audition process and eliminated any hope for filming the competition in 2020.
Then Will heard ANW got the go-ahead for the 2021 season, so he had to get creative with his training. “As summer crept by, I kept training and built a backyard gym.” Transformed out of his son’s backyard playset (Will’s son, Nate, is now 17), Will’s personal ninja gym is equipped with horizontal bars, a salmon ladder, and the infamous devil stairs.
March 8, 2020, was Will’s last day at NOVA Ninja before the pandemic. Then, February 1, 2021, he returned as if he had never left. “I picked up where I was, but stronger,” says Will. “I have more grip strength and I have only gotten better since quarantine.”
Now at 50 years old, Will has been accepted for the second time to compete on ANW for the first time.
“I am just looking forward to absorbing the experience coming in as a rookie,” explains Will. “This is a group of legitimate athletes, so, to be put in this select group, is so cool. It is validation and confirmation of the hard work I have put in.”
The City Qualifier will take place in Tacoma, Washington, on March 26-April 2. If Will completes the course, or makes it far enough fast enough compared to the other competitors, he will travel to Los Angeles two weeks later for the regional competition. Then, two weeks after that, finals will be held in Las Vegas.
Of the 500 selected competitors, only 100 will actually appear on television. Screened by NBC, the air date of the 2021 season of American Ninja Warrior is yet to be released. There will be no live audience, but Will’s wife, Betsy, son, Nate, and friends and family near and far have supported him through this two-year process that is finally coming to fruition.
Since beginning his training in early 2020, Will has only fallen more in love with the ninja life. “When I went into the ninja gym for the first time last year, and fell off the first obstacle, I thought, ‘Wow! I feel like a kid again.’ I hadn’t felt that good doing something like that in decades.
“When you’re in the flow and just flying through the air, that feeling of weightlessness is just the best feeling in the world.” Whether 15 or 50, ninja or not, I think we all have to agree.
For more information on American Ninja Warrior 2021, visit https://www.nbc.com/american-ninja-warrior.