SARATOGA SPRINGS — Four local athletes will compete this summer for a chance to be named the next ‘American Ninja Warrior’.
Geoff Snyder, André Patnode, Jenson Little, and Nicole Van Oort, all of whom coach or train at the Saratoga and Albany Ninja Labs, were selected to compete in the upcoming seasons of the NBC show ‘American Ninja Warrior’, where contestants attempt to complete a series of obstacle courses.
Three of the four contestants have been selected to compete in past seasons as well. Snyder competed in Season 9, while Patnode and Little competed in Season 14. Little also competed on the show during Season 10.
“Honestly, I’ve just been working since then to get back and give it one more try,” said Snyder, who is the head team coach and a co-owner of Ninja Labs. “I never felt like I did as well as I could have. Since 2017, I’ve just been continuing to work out, to train, hoping that one day they would give me a call again.”
Patnode said he was a fan of the show, and got into competition after the opening of a local Ninja gym.
“I told myself when I turn 50, I want to try out for the show,” said Patnode, who has been selected in two consecutive years. “With Ninja, I just felt accepted. No matter how good you do or how bad you do, they are there to support.”
Little, who will be competing for the third time, said he will “know what to expect” this year.
“I know that I just need to go out and prove myself, because I know I am capable of it,” said Little.
To apply for the show, prospective contestants fill out an application and film a three-minute video discussing why they would be a good selection for the series.
“It’s basically a three-minute video about who you are, what you do, how you train, what makes you stand out, and why you’d be a good contestant,” said Snyder.
Snyder said he discussed his friend Kevin Bogus, who passed away last year. Bogus worked with Snyder in the Fort Plain Central School District, and was a trainer at the Albany Ninja Labs.
Snyder said shortly before Bogus passed away, the two had a conversation about the previous year’s auditions for American Ninja Warrior. Snyder said he had not been selected, and was unsure if he would apply in the future.
“He was like, ‘Geoff, you’ve got to keep going, man,” said Snyder. “I don’t know if he had anything to do with it, if the stars aligned, but it seems to be happening here. To get one more shot at it, it’s hard to kind of put it into words how you feel.”
Patnode said that his video this year began with him skydiving out of a plane in an ‘American Ninja Warrior’ shirt. Last year, he scaled a silo in Ballston Lake for the video’s opening. Patnode also said he discussed his late mother.
“She was my biggest supporter, my biggest fan, and I know she’s going to be with me on this whole journey,” said Patnode. “This is giving me motivation, that she’s going to be with me and watching me. She’s going to be there.”
Little said that he spoke about his experience as a transgender man, saying it would be meaningful to be able to show representation within the sports world.
“For me to get out there and show that there are trans athletes, and we are in sports and we should belong in sports,” Little said. “To show kids and other adults that we should be allowed in those spaces means everything to me.”
Snyder stressed that simply being selected does not guarantee a competitor will be featured on the show. He said that his run in Season 9 of the series was not aired. Patnode and Little said the series used some footage of them for teasers at the beginning of the show, but also did not air their runs.
“Oftentimes, you have a less than 1% chance of being picked each year, because there are so many applicants,” said Snyder. “Just to have the opportunity to compete and be a part of it is an incredible experience.”
The qualifying round will take place at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California, beginning in mid-March.
Contestants who finish in the top portion of the qualifying round advance to the semifinals, which will be filmed at the same location at Universal Studios. Finishers in the top portion of the semifinals advance to the finals, filmed in Las Vegas.
And the opportunity to compete again, and to do so alongside familiar faces, “is just a really awesome thing to have,” Snyder said.
“That’s just the cherry on the sundae,” said Snyder. “We train together a lot. For all of us, this is something that we’ve all been shooting for.”