- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Maryland resident Geoff Britten just wanted to see what he could accomplish when he entered television’s “American Ninja Warrior” competition. As it turned out, his wife, who suggested he would be good at it, was right. Britten finished each stage this season, including becoming the first person to complete the daunting final course. The Washington Times spoke to him about training for the show, why he did it, and his thoughts on the controversy that has come from the ending which left him without official recognition or the prize money.

Q: When not a Ninja Warrior, your job is what?
A: You could call me a professional cameraman. I run the [video] cameras here [at Nationals Park], Baltimore, Capitals, Wizards, traveling to college football. Work Olympics.

Q: How did you get into the thought of participating on Ninja Warrior?
A: My wife watched the show and liked it three years ago. She was watching and thought I’d be really good at it. So, I went online and Googled it, checked it out, watched a lot of the shows. I found out there’s a gym up in White Marsh [Maryland] that has a lot of the obstacles there. Went up there and did every single thing they have on my first try. The owner there said, “Hey, you’re really good at this stuff,” so I applied for the show, went on it last season, did really well, made it to the final finals as a rookie in Las Vegas. Fell on a really hard obstacle — it’s called the “Jumping Spider,” you have to jump out and stick all four appendages at once on a curved wall. This year, I went back and did a little better.

Q: What in your athletic past made your wife think you would be good at ANW?
A: I’ve been a rock climber for 21 years. Really strong rock climbing. I used to be a sponsored athlete for a while doing that in my 20s. Just always been lean and athletic and good at that stuff, you know? Grew up in Hawaii surfing. Ran the beach. Climbing through bamboo forests.

Q: When you applied for the show, what were you hoping to accomplish?
A: When I first applied, I was just hoping to get a shot. Then, I was shocked they called me. That was really cool. It’s like an honor. There’s a lot of people who apply; they only take 500. This year, there was 600. Next year will be back to 500. Honestly, my first goal was just to get past the first obstacle. I don’t think anybody wants to go out there and just fall right away. … As a camera guy, it’s not a big world, I know almost all the camera guys on that show. They all got off camera before I ran, came up and said, “Hey, you better do this. Make us proud.” [Laughs]

Q: What’s the process to get on the show?
A: It’s actually a pretty simple process. You have to fill out a very detailed questionnaire. It’s like 20 pages long. Every question about you you ever wanted to answer, and you have to make a video. The video is very important. This year, it’s a two-minute video. When I first started, it was a four-minute video about who you are and why you’d do good on the show. That’s what they look at. The first season I did it, they had 5,000 people apply. Last season they had 50,000 people apply for 500 spots. This year, it will be a lot more than that.

Q: Where do you train now?
A: I mostly train in a climbing gym, Earth Treks in Rockville [Maryland], and a ninja obstacle gym, it’s called Alternate Routes, in White Marsh.

Q: What about the course itself do you think people at home, who watch and think they could do it, don’t understand?
A: My first thought is, come on and try it. It can look easy. What people don’t realize, is, first of all, we only get one shot at it. We don’t get to try it at all, and it’s not at your peak go time. It might be at 5 o’clock in the morning. I’ve done a lot of my runs at 5 a.m. when you’re tired. It’s really cold out. When we competed this year in Pittsburgh, it was 35 degrees outside. And, when you’re outside 6 p.m. until sunup, it’s hard to get warm in those conditions and feel good. The course can be wet, it can be slippery, it can be icy. That really adds a layer you don’t see on TV.

Q: Which part of the final course did you think would be most difficult?
A: I was terrified of the “Jumping Spider” because it had taken me out last year. Getting past that, I was really nervous about Stage 3, “The Flying Bars.” I actually almost fell on them. If you’ve seen it, I hit the last bar and my hands completely open up, but somehow I manage to stay on. I’d done a couple private competitions, and I always fall on “The Flying Bars” in the private competitions. I’ve lost a couple big ones. So, I was really nervous about that. … I find that, this is a good tip for anybody that wants to do Ninja Warrior, if you’re worried about an obstacle, I would say there’s a 90 percent chance you will fall on that obstacle. So, try not to worry about them too much. Have a plan, but don’t overly worry about one obstacle.

Q: Now, we have a bit of controversy. You were the first person to finish the course, and the only one to finish every course this season. Isaac Caldiero finished the final course after you, but went up the rope faster. He received the $1 million prize and is being touted as the first American Ninja Warrior. How would you describe what is going on?
A: My take on it is, I don’t know how to say this diplomatically, I feel like it’s pretty clear cut. I feel like I’m the first American Ninja Warrior. I’m the first person to do it, and all I care about is that that’s recognized. Feel like I should get a title or something. Seems like it’s kind of gone to him, all the titles and all the glory, and he’s come out and said that he feels he deserves that. To me, that feels a little unfair. He won, there’s nobody saying he didn’t win. He won clear as day, and he was an amazing competitor that night, but I was the first person to finish it all. I had a perfect season, the only one ever to do that.

Q: Your success and the subsequent controversy has brought a lot of exposure to you. Is that odd?
A: It’s very strange. It’s strange in a lot of ways for me. For me, I’ve always been around the media. I’ve always shot interviews. For the past 13 years, that’s what I’ve done for a living. To be on the other side of the camera is definitely strange. Took a little bit for me to get used to. It’s kind of surreal. That word’s used a lot, but it’s true. Going on the “Today” show and having famous people send me messages like, “You’re so awesome,” I think it’s really cool. I do. If anything, the reason I love this show is the fact that it inspires a lot of kids. I feel like that’s the best thing to take away from it. If you go back 40 or 50 years in America, and you went down a street kids were outside playing baseball. Today, that’s not the case. And, one thing I’ve seen the past couple years, is I’ve seen a lot more kids at playgrounds and when I drive past the playgrounds, they’re up and swinging on the monkey bars, kind of like I did when I was a kid. I didn’t see that five years ago, and now you do. That’s so cool to me. Getting all these messages from kids who are like, “Check out this video I made, Geoff!” They’re trying to be a Ninja at their playground. To me, that’s worth more than anything.


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