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‘American Ninja Warrior’ winner on home state: ‘Utah is pretty freaking awesome’

SHARE ‘American Ninja Warrior’ winner on home state: ‘Utah is pretty freaking awesome’

SALT LAKE CITY — Orem native Isaac Caldiero achieved the impossible two years ago, becoming the only winner of NBC's extreme obstacle course competition "American Ninja Warrior." Now he needs to find his next impossible goal.

Caldiero said in an interview with the Deseret News that he's known in the rock climbing world for pioneering first ascents. But, he said, when he returns to climb mountains he's already scaled, he doesn't get the same rush.

He feels the same about "ANW." Returning for the 2018 season on June 18, he showed up clean-shaven in khaki pants and a collared shirt — a change from the shaggy beard and bare chest he sported in 2015 — and successfully made it through the Indianapolis qualifying obstacle course, seemingly without breaking a sweat. This time around, the "ANW" hero doesn't feel any pressure to win.

"I've already won. I already did what I set out to do. I did the impossible and I got that monkey off my back and now I can come back with a whole different attitude and mentality towards it," he said. "I know what it takes for me to win again as far as training goes and I don't really train anymore for it. I just don't have the same drive because I've already done it. … It'd be fun to win again but I'm not going to put in the time and effort and obsession that I did before."

Caldiero said he's yet to find something that can compete with what he accomplished on "ANW." He's already traveled the world and won $1 million. He said he used that money — after paying about half of it to Uncle Sam — to buy a home in Chatanooga, Tennessee. He also bought a truck, paid off some debt and invested in a pension plan. He's a responsible adult now.

Before "ANW," Caldiero bussed tables at a restaurant in Colorado when he wasn't working construction or teaching climbing in between traveling everywhere he could to rock climb. Now he travels around doing appearances on behalf of "ANW."

Caldiero said he enjoys inspiring others, especially children, to be healthy and fit. He's met 14-year-olds who have lost 100 pounds, and people of all ages whose lives have been transformed by his healthy example.

"It inspires me to want to go back and put myself out there on the stage," he said. "I really don't like being on TV. I don't like being the center of attention and onstage like that. … At the end of the day, through that platform and through the moments of me putting myself out there on television, if I can inspire the world to do cool, great things, that's totally worth it."

Isaac Caldiero on the course of "American Ninja Warrior" in Indianapolis.

Isaac Caldiero on the course of “American Ninja Warrior” in Indianapolis.

Michael Hickey, NBC

But even fulfilled dreams can have a downside. Although Caldiero considers himself an athlete, the public sees him as a reality TV star. Unlike most reality TV, however, he said "ANW" is true unscripted drama. It takes a lot of athleticism to compete on the program and make it through any of the challenges, but only true fans of the show tend to realize that what they see on the program is real.

Caldiero discovered his love for the outdoors right here in Utah through participating in the Boy Scouts of America as a kid. The program was an outlet that gave him the drive to discover what he could do in Utah's mountains. He started mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding — then finally climbing when he was about 14 years old. He's been a professional climber for 20 years.

He said the mountains of Utah have the best climbing in the world. His family still lives in the Beehive State, and every time he comes back to visit he's amazed.

"Of all the places I've ever been, I always come back to Utah and I'm like, 'Wow, Utah is pretty freaking awesome,'" he said.

Isaac Caldiero's next appearance on "American Ninja Warrior" will be on Monday, Aug. 6. "American Ninja Warrior" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC.