This Week’s WOW!: Kacy Catanzaro

After listening to the Cromcast interview with Apex’s publisher-in-chief Jason Sizemore this morning at 3AM (gotta love late-night feedings), I fell in love with the idea of sharing one thing per week that I found especially fascinating. So I’m stealing it from them! (Also, you should check out this interview, because it’s a great discussion of fiction and running a publication, among a lot of other delightfully geeky things.) They call their weekly choice The One Thing, but mine I think I’ll put it under the title This Week’s WOW!

The thing that really caught my attention this week was Kacy Catanzaro and her amazing finals run on American Ninja Warrior.

This is what awesome looks like.
This is what awesome looks like.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately. I won’t deny that I’ve always been something of a TV-aholic by nature, but since the arrival of the Little Guy and trying to establish a feeding routine/recovering from delivery, most of my days have become giant TV marathons of terrible reality TV, food shows, and yes–American Ninja Warrior.

I love obstacle course competitions. I enjoy the hell out of Wipeout and its earlierĀ  predecessor, Extreme Elimination Challenge. I’ve run obstacle mud-runs myself. American Ninja Warrior combines the awesomeness of obstacles AND time limits. There’s nothing quite like watching a bunch of guys (in costume or not) race to complete a really tough course, and often splash out in dramatic falls, flailing flips, and heartbreaking stumbles. That’s the thing, though: it’s almost always just guys. Occasionally there’s a female competitor, and sometimes she even makes it pretty far. But the obstacles are largely designed for men: heavy on upper-body strength and long wingspan (a challenge for the shorter men, too).

It’s tough enough that even really ripped guys have a hard time making it through without exhausting themselves and their grip strength. Rock climbers typically do pretty well. Parkour fanatics usually have a bit of an edge. One would not think a tiny woman like Catanzaro would stand much of a chance. Her wingspan is barely long enough for some of these challenges! But she kills it. She chews up the ANW finals course with all its upper-body demands and long jumps and crazy climbs, and she NAILS it.

She makes it look so easy, but I’ve watched enough of this show to know without question that it’s far from a morning stroll. Guys a lot bigger and–one would think–more adapted to the course’s physical demands fail all the time, not because they haven’t spent hours preparing themselves (most have), but because the course is TOUGH.

The thing I love most about Catanzaro making it through the finals to get to Vegas’ epic obstacle course, Mount Midoriyama, isn’t just that she’s the first woman to do so on the show. Don’t get me wrong: that’s fabulous, and good for her! No, the thing that sticks with me is that there were no short-cuts. They didn’t provide a “modified” course for “the ladies”, like in golf and other co-ed sports. Kacy killed it on the same course the guys are fighting to master, competing directly against guys, and she didn’t need one ounce of help or modification to “equalize” the field.

She conquered the course, and she did it on her own, blowing everyone else away even as the announcers repeatedly mentioned how a woman has never gotten so far, how a woman may have real challenges with certain obstacles, and reminding the audience of how tough the course is so folks don’t forget that just because Catanzaro makes it look simple, it isn’t.

If you ever need a pick-me-up, a “Keep it strong, Girl!” moment, or encouragement to get out there and kick some butt–even when it’s hard, even when the odds are stacked against you, even when you’re the only one out there and everyone’s watching you to see if you fail–check out this video and try not to smile. I dare you.

This is how you Ninja #likeagirl: