Cheshire native Jay Lewis to compete in second ‘American Ninja Warrior’ final

Before Cheshire native Jay Lewis heads off to Syracuse University to start his first year of college, he has one more stop to make: the finals of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” in Las Vegas.

The 18-year-old competitor will be making his second appearance at the American Ninja Warrior finals on Aug. 15. He first made his ninja debut on the obstacle course game show in 2018 for its “American Ninja Warrior Junior” edition. He also competed to the national finals of the adult version on Aug. 9, 2021 and faced off his mentor during the Power Tower in the semifinals.

During the July 18 episode, he tackled the Power Tower while climbing and pushing through 50-pound barriers then hitting the buzzer in nearly four minutes. Lewis said his run at the semifinals this year was his favorite which he got the fastest time for.

"I felt really controlled on the course, and there was not a time I thought about falling," he said. "I knew I could make it to the Power Tower and win the safety pass for Vegas, which is huge. It was great to be able to get the fastest time again this year."

Winning a safety pass means if a competitor falls on stage one or two, they would get to run the course again, which is something competitors don’t get to do. His focus last year was just to make it finals. But this year, the safety pass was his goal, and he said it was nice to redeem himself from last year on that Power Tower and make it to Vegas.

The show features thousands of competitors attempting to complete a series of difficult obstacle courses in various cities across the United States to later advance to the national finals on the Las Vegas Strip and become the season’s “American Ninja Warrior.”

The national finals feature four stages where competitors have to beat each to get to the next. Each stage is different with increasing difficulty. Competitors are familiar with some of the obstacles from previous years, like the Jumping Spider, and some might be new. 

"Everything in Vegas is big, especially those obstacles," he said.

Stage one is around eight obstacles that focus on speed. Stage two features six obstacles and a time limit. Stage three is all about upper-body strength, grip and endurance with no time limit. Stage four is the “Final Climb,” a vertical 75-foot rope climb with a 30-second time limit where Ninjas need to climb up and hit the buzzer with the fastest time to win the $1 million. 

“I have been training rope for as long as I can remember and sometimes that is how I end my training, so I am ready,” said Lewis.

Lewis said he feels prepared for this years national finals and has been dreaming for this moment since he was 11. Last year, he felt overwhelmed and put pressure on himself since it was his first time at the finals.

“Last year I kept thinking, ‘If I hit that water, I’m done,’ but this year with the safety pass and my training, I am ready,” he said.

Lewis started his journey on "Ninja" started by flipping through the channels with his family and grandparents. In 2014, he found himself to really enjoy watching the show which inspired him and his brother to create obstacle courses at home in the front yard.

His brother researched ninja gyms in Connecticut for them to train and landed on one in Hamden. 

"Now, there are so many ninja gyms that you can find them in every corner of every state but back then it was not common so when we found the one in Hamden which recently opened at that time, it was so convenient because it was 20 minutes away from where we live," he said.

With his skills for ninja competitions strengthened over the years, Lewis said his passion and commitment to the sport has also gotten stronger.

"I have made many friends because of the show or the training gyms. Wherever I go, I find a ninja gym and train.  I already even found a ninja gym in Syracuse and they are excited to have me," he said.

While the finals air Aug. 15, Lewis said whether he wins or loses, he hopes kids watching or training don’t give up. He hopes they keep training whether at home or at a ninja gym because with persistence, they can follow in his footsteps.