Wednesday, June 13, 2012


So another show I've gotten myself into is American Ninja Warrior. I started watching three years ago, and it's another one of those shows (besides sports, and apparently Idol) where it's just easy to compile stats. I'm a parkour enthusiast and do a bit of outdoor training, so it's only natural that I'd watch this show as well.

So this show's fun--having watched it for three years running now, I know a lot of the vets on this show--the sort of guys who just train and live for this stuff, essentially. And of course, when you have so many veterans in a growing sport, the law of averages state that there will be surprises--and lo and behold, we see Levi Meeuwenberg and Brian Orosco go down through the first twelve episodes (for those who don't know, Levi's a legend in this game, but now he's a stuntman and doesn't seem to be giving his complete all--which might have led to the slip-up). Shane Daniels and Adam Truesdell, Midoriyama vets, also slipped up, although both are noted for their inconsistency and rushing tendencies down the course.

So there's going to 90 competitors who will go to Vegas to climb Mt Midoriyama--or at least the Vegas reincarnation of it, as it's the first time this has happened in American soil. I guess the bootcamp stuff is completely scrapped--I have mixed feelings on this; on the one hand, it's a great place to compile even more stats (hey, the more run times, the more data on a specific contestant, the more we can tell how good they were). Last year, I had James McGrath as a real sleeper to the point where he nearly ranked at the top at the very end. I won't show all the stats, but here were my rankings after four days of bootcamp work among the athletes:

1 Paul Kasemir 3.9664
2 David Campbell 6.4026
3 James McGrath 8.4138
4 Jake Smith 9.1385
5 Young Flip 9.1867
6 Ryan Stratis 10.2498
7 Brent Steffensen 11.0954
8 Travis Rosen 11.4442
9 Drew Drechsel 12.7591
10 Travis Furlanic 14.354

The stats are more or less run times, but get a little skewed with arbitrary but highly logical fudge factors to account for contestants who win or lose the bonus rounds or the heavenly rope climbs. Since we won't have that this year, I won't go into that. But look at the chart: Paul Kasemir was by far the greatest athlete last year. And he started slow too--he really picked up momentum. David Campbell is a legend already, that's already obvious. And then you see James McGrath at #3, and actually there are other sleepers-such as Jake Smith and Young Flip Rodriguez (aka "The Masked Ninja"). The other guys were more or less inconsistent, although I'd put in a little support for Rosen and Drechsel, both of whom had a great beginning three weeks before slipping really badly. Furlanic didn't even bother to show up last year, and was just awful throughout, and it looks like he's got the focus back together as you'll see in my compiled stats for this year's Ninja Warrior below. Steffensen's another all-around athlete who's also looking for redemption.

Now, let's look at this year. So far, we've seen sixty out of the ninety contestants who are going to Vegas, so we need to fill out thirty more. By far, the Venice Beach auditions (for the Northwest and Southwest) just absolutely own the other parts--the athletes are way better in general, we see far lower average run times there. But before we isolate by sector so far, let's look at my overall rankings, based on run times, so we can get a feel for which contestants actually have hope for scaling Mt Vegasoriyama (they're the ones I bolded, as these contestants are above all the averages for each of the four sectors). The ones in italics are beyond the highest average and goes all the way to #45, the midpoint of all of the 90 contestants--these are what I call the dark horses, the ones I don't really expect to make it all the way, but due to the law of averages one or two of them might somehow overachieve.

Before we get to the list, let's look at the average run times of each of the sectors:
Southeastern: 270.99
Midsouth (MS): 308.38
Southwest (SW): 320.40
Northwest (NW): 339.45
Northeastern (NE): 440.58
Midnorth (MN): 490.07

Not surprisingly, the south is better than the north in parkour in general. Here's the rankings:

UPDATE: Ones who made it to Round 2 of the Finals are in YELLOW.

1 Flip Rodriguez 179.89
2 Drew Drechsel 186.44
3 James McGrath 194.08
4 Paul Kasemir 197.21
5 Travis Rosen 208.7
6 Brandon Douglass 208.82
7 Travis Furlanic 216.93
8 Matthew Derouen 217.22
9 Sean Morris 221.13
10 David Campbell 222.25
11 Livewire Shieff 230.92
12 Bull Bullard 234.96
13 Jesse LaFlair 239.14
14 Sat Khalsa 239.81
15 Brian Arnold 241.28
16 Remi Bakkar 246.84
17 William Brown 247.45
18 Brent Steffensen 248.13
19 Michael Eckert 248.32
20 Josh Lobeck 252.14
21 Andrew Karsen 256.38
22 Chris Wilczewski 257
23 Thomas Hall 257.26
24 Ahmed Toure 260.07
25 Lorin Ball 266.12
26 Brendan Kelly 266.85
27 Kole Stevens 270.09
28 Evan Dollard 271.99
29 Elet Hall 274.92
30 Luis Moco 276.73
31 Kevin Klein 277.1
32 Jake Smith 279.72
33 Dan Mast 280.4
34 Derek Nakamoto 280.63
35 Andy Taylor 281.05
36 Justin Sweeney 281.95
37 Dorian Cedars 282.73
38 Chad Simpson 284
39 Paul Darnell 284.6
40 Adam Grossman 290.2
41 Stephen Volcko 294.83
42 Tony Reddick 299.66
43 Kyle Cochran 301.96
44 Travis Graves 303.5
45 Jesse Villareal 308.74
46 Josh Horsley 314.17
47 Nathan Sausedo 314.33
48 Justin Walcker 323.56
49 Jared JJ Woods 327.1
50 James Wyatt 338.26
51 JB Douglas 340.96
52 Jaret Salas 342.25
53 Kevan Reoli 343.78
54 Ryan Thompson 353.29
55 Bob Pondrom 353.92
56 Sedrick Bassett 377.24
57 Jack Morgan 389.64
58 Brian Kretsch 393.39
59 Niko Bogucki 401.57
60 Gunner Bahn 402.22
61 Dan Galiczynski 407.39
62 Christopher Digangi 409.11
63 Dylan Curry 413.28
64 Paul O'Connor 414.2
65 Nathaniel Spencer 416.42
66 Arthur Skov 429.09
67 Sean Noble 437.74
68 Danny Johnson 438.3
69 Tremaine Dortch 454.79
70 Michael Silenzi 463.51
71 Phillip Pirollo 467.92
72 Ronnie Shalvis Jr 474.31
73 Patrick McGrath 475.42
74 Lovin Stephforn 482.57
75 Johnathan Morin 491.8
76 Alan Connealy 497.8
77 Frosti Zernow 499.29
78 Andrew Wood 511.57
79 Joshua Grant 519.99
80 Ben Snead 528.95
81 Andrew Lowes 562.34
82 Bradley Smith Jr 625.9
83 Nick Kostner 627.49
84 Scott Robinson 635.22
85 Will Dodd 639.01
86 Cade Halada 646.87
87 John Sapinoso 674.52
88 Nate Aye 695.15
89 Michael Pericoloso 708.74
90 Matt Mings 713.49

(UPDATE: 16 out of my top 30 ranked advanced to stage 2, proving that if you're in the top 30 overall, you've got a coin toss of a chance to advance through. Incidentally, the top six advanced but then went a string of the next eight not advancing, including David Campbell in a shocker. Interestingly enough, Derek Nakamoto at #34 had the overall fastest time, and he and Paul Darnell make up the periphery of my sleepers list. With the law of averages, there are bound to be a few lucky ones, and those are JB Douglas (#51), Nathaniel Spencer (#65), Sean Noble (#67), Danny Johnson (#68), Ben Snead (#80) and Will Dodd (#85))

So accounting for the new times, here's my rank heading into Obstacle #2 of the Finals:

1 Flip Rodriguez 291.55
2 Drew Drechsel 292.52
3 Paul Kasemir 305.5
4 James McGrath 305.69
5 Travis Rosen 319.7
6 Brandon Douglass 322
7 Brent Steffensen 349.13
8 Remi Bakkar 357.82
9 Brian Arnold 359.44
10 Lorin Ball 363.34
11 Ahmed Toure 367.63
12 Kole Stevens 372.42
13 Derek Nakamoto 375.03
14 Josh Lobeck 378.22
15 Chris Wilczewski 378.26
16 Elet Hall 380.92
17 Paul Darnell 389.58
18 Evan Dollard 391.56
19 JB Douglas 458.46
20 Danny Johnson 540.61
21 Nathaniel Spencer 546.42
22 Sean Noble 550.94
23 Ben Snead 635.97
24 Will Dodd 761.24

If we're to follow with the same pattern as with Obstacle #1, the top eight are the favorites, but only about half of the top eight will advance to the next round, due to randomness--but no doubt, these are the eight favorites. The next three are sleepers--if we are to bet as with Obs1, two of the three should advance--Lorin Ball with the second fastest time in Obs1 in particular is a huge sleeper. The rest I'm more skeptical, but Derek Nakamoto at #13 seems to be a favorite now, and at this stage the right way to bet is that only one of this bottom twelve makes it to the next stage. Chris Wilczewski, Paul Darnell, and Evan Dollard are Ninja Warrior veterans and might pull something out of the bag, but I'm not betting for them.


That's actually a decent amount of good contestants here, nearly half the crew appears to be competent. Anyone 46 and beyond is essentially hopeless as they're beyond the slowest average time, and while we may see a few stragglers between 28-45 who actually overachieve, I'm betting none of those guys will actually win based on their compiled scores. So focus on the bold: these are the heavy hitters of the group: it's a mix of veterans and thoroughbred athletes,  and most of them have already been given spot pieces on the show already (although it's awfully funny how Travis Furlanic was a flyby in his runs--apparently the show didn't want to show all the veterans, nor did they mention how he was David Campbell's nephew).

These ratings essentially jibe with my expectations: the top four deserve special mention because they completed their runs in all under 200 seconds: Flip Rodriguez (aka the Masked Ninja), Drew Drechsel, James McGrath and Paul Kasemir. Rounding out the top ten is Travis Rosen, Brandon Douglass, Travis Furlanic, Matthew Derouen, Sean Morris and David Campbell. Interestingly, all of these guys were spotlighted, except Sean Morris, but he's a bit of a Ninja Warrior vet who's attempted this course for a hwile now. Anyway, he's a real sleeper to win this whole thing, considering the lack of TV time.This jibes with my expectations, with Young Flip (deceptively strong, athletic, quick, veteran), Drechsel (veteran, gutsy, agile, strong), McGrath (veteran, did well at Mt Midoriyama last year, really overachieved), Kasemir (renowned for his patience, has killer instinct, calculating, veteran, part of Colorado's renowned parkour), Rosen (gymnastics background, veteran, knows ow to play the game despite being an elder statesman), Douglass (athletic, speedy, daring, trains with Kasemir/Colorado's renowned parkour), Furlanic (horrific last year, but a super veteran who's been to Mt Midoriyama several times, nephew of legend David Campbell), Derouen (gutsy, long, strong athletics background), Morris (apparently very agile and quick), and Campbell (legend, super veteran, training master, never gets fazed). 

The real sleepers go all the way up to 27, but others who deserve special mention include Livewire (world champion freerunner/breakdancer, gutsy and daring), Bull Bullard (most athletic/tall guy of this bunch, long wingspan and quick hops, great athletic background can help him with Globetrotter experience) and then LaFlair (world famous parkour youtubes). Khalsa, Arnold, Bakkar, Brown, Steffensen, Eckert, Lobeck, Karsen and Wilczewski, Hall, Toure, Ball, Kelly, and Stevens would have rounded that up. Of these guys, Brent Steffensen has Mt Midoriyama experience and deserves mention as an well-rounded athlete, and Chris Wilczewski and Thomas Hall have partaken in Ninja Boot Camp in past years.

It's actually a great thing to allow 90 opportunities for Americans to see if they can scale Mt Midoriyama here--in the past, we'd only send six to ten, and given the magnitude of it it was virtually impossible to scale. Increasing the numbers would increase the chances, and as mentioned the top crust of contestants look very competent.

We'll see what happens next week with this.

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