This year, it's Jessie Graff, who made history last night by being the first woman ever to complete Stage One in the finals. And not just any Stage One, either. A Stage One that's so difficult this year, many of the veteran men who usually navigate Stage One with ease were shockingly knocked out. Less than 10 of dozens of competitors made it through, and Jessie Graff was one of them, completing the course with the fourth-fastest time.
It was AMAZING, and Iain and I were cheering our hearts out, as we watched another woman make American Ninja Warrior history!
Video Description: Jessie Graff, a blond white woman, who is a professional stuntwoman, stands at the starting line of the obstacle course, wearing a green superhero costume. (She always competes in a superhero costume; she is a stuntwoman on Supergirl.) One of the announcers says that "she'll need to be superhuman; no woman has finished Stage One, and this course has been brutal tonight, taking out some of the very best."
The buzzer goes off, and Jessie begins, first leaping her way across a winding series of wobbly steps, hovering over a pool of water. Most of the obstacles on the course are suspended over water, and if the contestant touches the water with even so much as a toe as they navigate the course, they are disqualified.
Jessie completes the steps and hops onto an inclining ramp. She crawls up to the next platform, then runs toward a small trampoline, leaps off of it, and flies through the air to grab onto a giant suspended propeller. The propeller spins, and, as it spins, she reaches out for a rope with her feet, catching it, then grabs the rope with her hands, swinging away from the propeller and onto the next platform.
She moves on to the Giant Log Grip, a vertical log with shallow hand-holds and no foot-holds, which slides quickly 50-feet across the course with three jarringly steep drops. Jessie clings to the log, managing to hold on, and dismounts onto a small floating mat. "Jessie! Jessie! Jessie!" the crowd shout. One of the announcers says, "This crowd is chanting like she's a rock star!"
She traverses a narrow bridge to the next obstacle, which is the Jumping Spider. She is one of only two women, the other being Meagan Martin, who have made it past this obstacle in the finals. Can she do it again? YES! She leaps off a trampoline and launches herself into a suspended tunnel with no floor, wedging her feet and hands against either wall, then hopping up and through the tunnel, until she jumps out the other side safely. She did it!
She then runs up a ramp, and hops across a curving series of pedestals increasing in height, then leaps to grab a rope, on which she swings across to another narrow bridge. The crowd is going wild.
Next comes the Warped Wall, which defeated her at this very point last year. No woman has ever gotten past it in the finals. "Can you feel history in the making here?" asks one of the announcers, as Jessie pauses, the clock ticking, to contemplate her nemesis. She takes a running start and then LEAPS for the top of the wall and grabs hold! SHE'S DONE IT! She scrambles up to the top of the curving wall, and the crowd is cheering, the announcers are cheering, and I AM CHEERING AGAIN JUST WATCHING IT!
She runs down several lowering platforms to the next obstacle, which is a series of 6 narrow, wobbly platforms. She traverses them with stunning agility, and she's on to the last obstacle!
"It's about to go down!" shouts one of the announcers. The crowd is going wild!
The final obstacle is pure devilry. The Flying Squirrel is a set of two hanging arms, spaced widely apart. At the end of each arm is a small handle. The competitor has to leap from a trampoline and grab the handles on the first set of arms, then swing the arms to get momentum, without losing grip on the small handles, then leap to the second set of arms, grabbing the small handles, then swing the second set of arms to get momentum to jump onto a cargo net.
Jessie goes for it, springing off the trampoline and flying through the air. She grabs the first set of handles and, as she begins to swing, a huge grin crosses her face. She knows. She's going to do it. She's going to make history.
She swings and swings, as the clock ticks down, and then leaps to the next set of arms. Her hands grab the handles, and now all that is left is the cargo net and the clock. She takes one last flying leap, grips the cargo net, and then scurries up to the final platform, where the buzzer awaits her. With just over 12 seconds left, she hits the buzzer.
EVERYONE GOES WILD! The female competitors are hugging each other in celebration and the male competitors are shouting her name, as Jessie collapses atop the platform. "Jessie! Jessie! Jessie!" everyone chants. She lifts her arms triumphantly and waves to the crowd with a smile.
One of the announcers says, "For the first time ever, a woman will be facing Stage Two of American Ninja Warrior!"
Congratulations, Jessie! And thank you.