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‘American Ninja Warrior’ has only had 2 winners in 12 years. Will this Utah teen end the drought?

It’s not impossible to win ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ but it’s far from easy

Utahn Kai Beckstrand competes on “American Ninja Warrior.”
On Monday night, Kai Beckstrand, from St. George, Utah, became one of 27 competitors to reach Stage 2 of the “American Ninja Warrior” National Finals.
Elizabeth Morris, NBC

It’s not impossible to win “American Ninja Warrior,” but it’s far from easy.

To achieve total victory and claim the $1 million prize, a competitor must successfully navigate the entire four-stage obstacle course of the National Finals — a course that gets substantially harder with each stage.

But it’s not enough to just complete the course — each stage must also be completed within a certain time limit.

Here’s a statistic to illustrate how difficult that is: Out of the show’s 12 full seasons, only two people — including Salt Lake City’s Isaac Caldiero — have actually been declared an “American Ninja Warrior” champion and claimed the $1 million prize.

Now in its 13th season, “American Ninja Warrior” has reached the National Finals once again.

And after Monday’s episode, Kai Beckstrand, a high school sophomore from St. George, Utah, still has a shot at becoming the show’s third winner — and the second winner from Utah.


Kai Beckstrand’s run on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Although Kai didn’t get a lot of screen time during Monday night’s episode of “American Ninja Warrior,” the show revealed that the 15-year-old was one of just 27 competitors — out of 68 total — to hit the buzzer on Stage 1 and move on to the even trickier Stage 2.

Stage 1, which involved a wide range of obstacles testing balance and upper body strength, had to be completed within 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Like his previous appearances, Kai seemed to breeze through the course with relative ease, swinging, jumping and running his way to the buzzer — which he hit with 17 seconds to spare.

Out of the 27 ninjas that completed Stage 1, Kai had the 15th-fastest time.

Monday night’s episode also introduced viewers to Stage 2 of the National Finals — a six-obstacle course that must be completed within 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

That course is designed to swiftly eliminate competition, and it seems to be working: So far, only one ninja, 16-year-old Vance Walker, has hit the Stage 2 buzzer to move on to Stage 3.

Kai’s run on Stage 2 — and potentially Stages 3 and 4 — will air next Monday on NBC.

There’s a lot a 15-year-old could spend $1 million on, but Kai doesn’t even hesitate when asked how he’d put the money to use.

“I’d put it into a savings account, for sure,” he recently told the Deseret News.


More about Kai Beckstrand

Kai has been training for “American Ninja Warrior” since he was 7, working his way through the many obstacles his dad, Brian Beckstrand, designed over the years in their backyard.

That preparation paid off. During the first round of “American Ninja Warrior” this season, the teenager had the fastest time of all the competitors. Both Kai and his dad, Brian Beckstrand, successfully completed that course, becoming the first father-son duo in the history of the show to hit the buzzer and move on to the semifinals, the Deseret News reported.

Kai Beckstrand poses for a portrait at his family’s gym in St. George on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Beckstrand’s training efforts landed the 15-year-old in the finals on the competition television show “American Ninja Warrior.”
Kai Beckstrand poses for a portrait at his family’s gym in St. George on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Beckstrand’s training efforts landed the 15-year-old in the finals on the competition television show “American Ninja Warrior.”
Nick Adams, for the Deseret News

Although Brian Beckstrand was eliminated during the semifinals, he and his wife, Holly — who previously competed on seasons 10 and 11 — were both in attendance to cheer Kai on at the National Finals in Las Vegas.

Kai recently told the Deseret News that he gets “really nervous” when he’s about to go on a course. But once he’s made it through the first obstacle, he gets in the zone and is usually able to block out any distractions from the camera, sidelines or crowd.

“I get a little nervous just because I know that it’s going to be on TV and everybody else can watch, but the adrenaline kind of kicks in,” he said. “I just kind of try to push through it.”