More than 100 GIs — from all military branches, active-duty, National Guard and veterans — were set to compete Friday night on a pier south of Los Angeles during a special all-military edition of “American Ninja Warrior,” the NBC sports entertainment program that bills itself as the world’s toughest obstacle course.
Only 30 of those competitors, however, will make it through to the show’s second round, set for Saturday night. Staff Sgt. Randall Forsythe, a Scott Air Force Base firefighter, said Friday morning that he likes his chances for making it to the second round and then making it into the show’s championship round — and a chance to win $1 million — to be televised in September.
Forsythe spent Thursday training for the obstacle course with fellow military contestants in the East Los Angeles backyard of a former Ninja contestant. Based on his warm-up performance, Forsythe expresssed confidence about how well he would do Friday.
“I think there’s no reason why I can’t be one of the top performers,” he said.
Friday’s event, which will be televised on the evening of July 4, will take place in the shadow of the USS Iowa battleship, which has been converted into a floating museum docked in San Pedro.
Forsythe described the atmosphere so far among fellow military contestants as warm and supportive, with little of the inter-service rivalry and razzing often on display when different military branches and units intermingle in public.
“They’re trying to be humble until tonight,” he said.
Forsythe, 29, is an 11-year Air Force veteran. He has been training for five months for the competition, with the most important part of his training taking place in a specially-equipped gymnasium in St. Charles, Mo., that replicates many of the obstacles featured on American Ninja Warrior television show.
He’s supplemented his training by performing countless push-ups, pull-ups and other muscle-building exercises at the Scott firehouse and at the air base’s gymnasiums.
Forsythe is confident that when it’s his turn to compete Friday night in front of the network TV cameras, he will be able to set aside his nervousness and focus on each obstacle one at a time.
“It’s kind of like whenever I played sporting events,” he said. “My wife says she’s out there yelling. She’s like, ‘Do you hear me yelling?’ I’m like, ‘No, I block everything out. I’m just focused on what’s ahead of me.’”
Forsythe expected to have plenty of support in the stands Friday night, including his wife Shahannah, some Air Force buddies, his sister and his brother-in-law.
As far as how well he does — that’s going to remain a secret until the telecast of the July 4 show. All contestants must sign a lengthy non-disclosure agreement that could mean serious financial penalties for contestants who disclose competition results ahead of time.
“You’ll just have to wait and see until the night of the show,” he said.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.