This week four Blackheath ninjas are again set to take on the almost impossible television obstacle course over water, in the second series of Australian Ninja Warrior.
And while real life ninjas may be diminishing in Japan, in Australia 300 competitors were selected to take part in the second series, 50 more than last time.
Lee Cossey, 36, his younger brother Ben, 34, and their friend and fellow elite rock climber Tom O’Halloran, 25, made it to the finals of the 2017 ratings blockbuster from an initial field of 5000. Lee’s partner Andrea Hah, 32, famously made history as the first Australian woman to conquer the warped wall.
This week and in coming episodes, the four ninjas lighting fast climbing reflexes, grip strength and flexibility, will again be on show.
But they are skills Blue Mountains visitors to Lee and Andrea’s indoor climbing gym at Katoomba often get to see first hand. On Sunday as a ninja preview for the Gazette, Tom easily did the splits from one of the trickier routes, while Ben hung from one of the highest points as Lee and Andrea, now six months pregnant, watched from below.
In season two many returning competitors have become very serious about training. A group from Perth have their own ninja training stadium – training that enabled one woman to backflip up the warped wall this time around. Another entrant built a $7000, 22 metre replica tower to mimic the final challenge of the 38 part obstacle course.
Andrea said she admires their “obsession”. “It’s inspiring.”
The obstacles this time round “were harder for sure” said Tom, but they all felt less nervous as they knew what was expected.
“We knew what each of the shots would be,” said Lee.
Ben said he had to make “a wardrobe change for tinier shorts” to avoid making contact with the water. And they all agreed there was an expectation that, having done so well in the first season they could do it all over again.
“But it’s a bit of the luck of the draw which night you get, each heat is different, some have an easier course, others have a lot of stronger people [in that heat],” Andrea added.
The four didn’t do any special preparation for season 2 filming which took place last December.
Tom had finished competing in the Australian Open Nationals Bouldering Championships (which he won) and Andrea and Lee had just returned from climbing and sleeping on portaledges on the legendary climbing mecca, El Capitan – 3000 vertical feet from the floor of Yosemite Valley in California.
As Tom points out: “What we go on [the cliffs] all the time is always different and changing, different climbs and terrains, so you are always developing all these different kinds of skills … and you have to adapt quickly which helped us go well.”
The four climbers appear on the show on Tuesday night and subsequent episodes.
This time Tom’s partner Amanda Watts also had a run through the course while he cheered from the sidelines with their daughter Audrey, 4 (who also likes to rock climb).
In 2018 the Australian Ninja Warrior course has again featured a few celebrity cameos – rugby league legend, Paul Gallen, notorious party boy Corey Worthington and the son of Olympians Grant Kenny and Lisa Curry. There’s even a red wiggle. But so far they have all come up short.
It took seven seasons in the USA to crack the tower and the tower remains unconquered in the UK and in Australia. No-one won in the first season, this year the winner takes home $200,000.