OT: Kacy Catanzaro gives us a clinic on body control

Submitted by dragonchild on July 17th, 2014 at 9:55 AM

So this is making the rounds today, and while you'll probably be sick of hearing it by the end of the week, I've got my own reasons for sharing.


So, Kacy Catanzaro completed the American Ninja Warrior finals course.  And while the news is all about how she overcame her diminutive stature (with some haters saying the course was "easy" because her body is so light) or GRRL POWER (how "historical" is it when a competition has only been in place since 2009?), what I saw was the most beautiful clinic on body control.

The approach was as intelligent as it was incredible.  Not that the course was any easier for the guys -- they all ran the same course and it's designed to make your weight work against you -- but the most amazing sequences were when her lack of length demanded a dramatically different approach probably not expected by the course designers.  When she couldn't reach, she built up momentum or coiled up and leaped.  When she lacked upper body strength, she generated power from her legs and core.  Above all else, she showed an excellent combination of agility and precision.  That's gymnastics for you, but this was a lot more fun to watch because by not needing to look pretty or elegant she brought her full ability to bear.

She ain't playing any contact sports weighing in at 100 pounds, but seriously, I'd show this to any asipring athlete, male or female.  The lesson here is that when you're trying an amazing feat of athleticism, whether it's jump from pole to pole or catch a pass thrown low and three feet out-of-bounds, the situation restricts your options.  What's left, however difficult, is what you have to do, but finding out what that is and how to do it is just as important as having the requisite athleticism.

I can imagine Jeremy Gallon getting a huge kick out of this for some reason. . .


oriental andrew

July 17th, 2014 at 9:59 AM ^

The pole grasper jump was pretty impressive.  Great coordination.  The thing that struck me is that all the guys who seemed to leap for the 2nd to last pole did so out of desperation and the hands tended to completely miss the pole.  Kacy Catanzaro seemed to do so more intentionally than desperately (if that makes sense).  Also, the leap on the previous obstacle (can't remember what it's called - tilting something) was pretty sweet.  

Did I mention that my 6 and 8 year old daughters LOVE the show?  


July 17th, 2014 at 10:38 AM ^

You can see she didn't even try to reach, and tensed up her body just before the leap.  I think that was one moment where her gymnastics experience genuinely worked to her advantage; gauging distance and then leaping to grab a pole is something she's been doing for years.  It was incredible to watch but I think it was one of the easier stunts for her.  She took much longer and showed more emotion scaling the 15' wall; I think what's kind of a gimme for the guys was one of her toughest challenges.

What struck me more was the salmon ladder; not only did she conquer it like a champ, her bucking kick conserved a lot of upper body strength for the later trials.  All the guys do that as well -- you can't generate enough explosion just from your arms -- but her technique was the best I've seen.  I could even show that to linemen as a lesson on transferring back/core/leg power to the arms.  You aren't going to blow back a 300-pound man off the line just by standing up and punching them in the chest; you gotta learn to drive with your legs and THAT's how you do it.


July 17th, 2014 at 10:42 AM ^

I saw her run through that course and other than height, she has all the tools necessary for that competition.  Unbelievable athletic ability in that 5 foot frame.  Can't wait to see what she can do in Vegas.


July 17th, 2014 at 11:02 AM ^

She's very small. I'm not a hater as I've only watched the show a couple of times and don't follow it but I have to believe that less body weight is helpful. When you combine her gymnastic training, she is probably stronger and able to throw around more than 100lbs. Seems like a perfect combination for this type of course or competition; small/light/compact/strong/agile. 


July 17th, 2014 at 11:09 AM ^

It was certainly an advantage in the salmon ladder which seems explicitly designed to wear out the heavies.  HOWEVA, whatever advantage she had by being 100 lbs. was more than offset by her lack of length.  Whereas some guys could get away with just reaching, she had to constantly swing her body around and in some cases leap from obstacle to obstacle because her arms were too short.  Not having much stride & arm length also certainly didn't help scaling the wall.  So while the guys certainly didn't have it easy constantly hauling 130-170 lbs., she was THROWING her 100-pound body around like a monkey not because it was easy, but because she had to.

Overall, any way you cut it the course is incredibly difficult so I think a serious argument about who has it "easy" is just haters looking to quibble (which is why I chose to share here as opposed to most sports sites where the derp is already setting datacenters on fire).


July 18th, 2014 at 1:23 AM ^

I'd say the throwing your body around isn't that tough for a trained gymnast as they've been practicing that for years.  I'd say a gymnastics background is the perfect training for this type of event because it's all about muscle endurance and body control.  And the anouncers were idiots constantly mentioning her weight like it was a disadvantage.  The height was a disadvantage but weighing only 100 lbs was a big advantage.


July 17th, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

My family never watched this show before this season, but each time it's on, my three kids (15, 13, 10) and myself all are riveted watching it.  It's such a simple show -- people repeatedly running the same stupid course -- but wow, it's like a drug, you can't stop watching it.

My 13yo is a Level 8 gymnast  and has been stunned by what Kacy was doing -- so this isnt just gymnastic skills, because the course requires the finger strength of a rock climber, and gymnasts don't have to suspend their whole body weight with their fingers.  (On bar, it's a hand grip, and momentum keeps the girls to the bar as much as anything).  To any hater who says she had it easy b/c of her body size -- well, if she is the FIRST WOMAN to ever accomplish it, doesn't that mean, it's not easy.  There have been plenty of female competitors in the past, apparently.  A former MSU gymnast was even one earlier this year.

The way Kacy climbed those last 25 feet or whatever in the verticle elevator-like shaft -- she went up it like Spiderman, seriously.  After burning all her energy for 8 minutes to get to that point, THAT was the most amazing part of it all.  It was like, "Can she climb the whatever and be the first woman to... oh... yup, she did it."


oriental andrew

July 17th, 2014 at 6:08 PM ^

As you're a noob to the show, it should be noted that this is her 3rd time (I believe) appearing on this show, and she is dating a guy (Brent Steffensen) who, although failing in his attempt this year, is a so-called "legend" of the sport.  She's been doing dedicated full-time obstacle course and ninja warrior training for the last couple of years, so she does have an advantage over many competitors in that respect.  

Not to diminish her accomplishment, b/c her lack of physical stature is something significant to overcome, but she's not just some random super-fit woman they found on the street.

Lucky Socks

July 17th, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

Gravity didn't seem to apply to her.  One part of me says that weight 100 lbs is an advantage, but the lack of wingspan is obviously a serious disadvantage.  Not all athletes are created equal.  It was very impressive, and I was shocked at how easy she made it seem.



July 17th, 2014 at 4:43 PM ^

Incredible performance.  Steady and incredible balance throughout.  Look forward to seeing how she does going forward in the competition.


July 17th, 2014 at 7:08 PM ^

gymnasts are badass, great strength to weight ratio, great core strength, great upper body strength.  That background generally translates really well to all athletic endeavours.


July 17th, 2014 at 7:19 PM ^

She is a ridiculous athlete. People will go too far with this on both sides (misogynists v. misandrists), but she just proved that she is among the top .1% of athletes in the world, male or female, and that's all that really matters.


July 18th, 2014 at 6:56 PM ^

Just watched this on Facebook. Amazing. I wish I had the dedication to make my body that strong and powerful! Her concentration was phenomenal too. 


July 19th, 2014 at 1:56 PM ^

The intelligence and respectfulness with which this discussion was held makes me glad that I read this board. VERY few college football affiliated blogs would have had a similar discussion.


July 21st, 2014 at 9:55 AM ^

I can only imagine how sore she must have been after that, very impressive!

Ive never seen American Ninja Warrior but I used to watch the Japanese version on G4 a lot. Did they do away with the time limit for the American reboot? I remember they definitely only gave the Japanese competitors a couple minutes to complete the courses.

oriental andrew

July 22nd, 2014 at 4:31 PM ^

City qualifying and city finals have no time limit (first round).  The second round (first round of the finals in vegas) has a time limit.  Third round has no time limit.  Fourth and final round at Mt Midoriyama (if it's like Sasuke - the original Japanese show - nobody has gotten there on ANW so far) should have a time limit.  


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