American Ninja Warrior has always brought together an elite variety of versatile athletes to compete for the top title. The star of Season 8 has been Supergirl stuntwoman Jessie Graff, who has been wowing audiences and smashing records all season. Now, she's set a brand new record by becoming the first woman to complete Stage 1 of the American Ninja Warrior finals. Jessie Graff shared her thoughts on her latest victory, saying this:
I'm excited to complete Stage 1 as an athlete, not just a woman, because it is a deceptively challenging course that has taken out hundreds of stronger athletes than me, male and female... Knowing that I can conquer the most finicky, volatile course, under the most pressure, gives me the confidence to know that whatever challenges arise in my life, I'm capable of staying centered and making the best decision possible. As far as being the first woman to do it, there are more women than ever who are fully capable of doing what I did, and even more. I'm grateful that it came together for me on the right night, and looking forward to seeing more women hit that buzzer in the future.
Humbleness, thy name is Jessie Graff. The stuntwoman successfully completed eight crazy obstacles that took out most of her fellow competitors. Four of those obstacles had been invented and/or modified for Stage 1 of finals, so she had no prior experience with half of her challenges. Graff came in with twelve seconds to spare on the clock as the only woman to make it to the end and only one of eight total; she finished fourth overall. If Jessie Graff had seized every interview opportunity in the aftermath of her victory to brag about how awesome she is as an athlete, who could have blamed her?
If you missed her epic run through Stage 1 of the 2016 national finals, check it out!
Jessie Graff's explanation to ESPN of her post-Stage 1 mindset says a lot about who she is as an athlete. It's certainly true that she's not the most physically strong competitor ever to tackle the obstacle courses of American Ninja Warrior. As a female, she's physiologically going to be smaller than most of the others in the running for the top prize. It has been her confidence in and control of her skills that have allowed her to make it as far as she has in Season 8; instead of rushing through obstacles, Graff takes her time and picks her best course of action before leaping ahead. Even now that she's facing a time limit, she didn't rush her steps, and so she's still in the running to become the next American Ninja Warrior.
The crowd will certainly be rooting for her. Jessie Graff's races through courses are always worth watching a second or third time just to see everybody pulling for her to achieve what no woman has achieved before her, and some of her competitors have joined her cheering section.
Even Lego is Team Jessie. Take a look at Lego's recreation of her finals run:
Tune in to NBC next Monday at 8 p.m. ET to see what's next for the competitors who will stay in the game for the next round of American Ninja Warrior, and don't forget to check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see what else you'll be able to watch on the small screen in the near future.