The veteran competitor says this week was "full of inspiring and emotional runs"

By Kacy Catanzaro
Updated June 01, 2015 10:05 PM
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Credit: Fernando Leon/NBC. Inset:David Livingston/Getty

Kacy Catanzaro is competing for a third season on American Ninja Warrior. She made history last season by becoming the first female competitor to reach the top of the 14-ft. warped wall and also became the first and only woman to earn a spot to the Las Vegas finals by completing a city finals course.

American Ninja Warrior defines the word “obstacle” as something that interferes with progress. Ah, such as in life as well.

The obstacles that make up this Kansas City qualifying course are very physically demanding while obstacles in life can be more emotionally challenging. No matter. We all learn that it’s not the obstacles that define us but, rather, how we navigate them and go forward. What Ninja does is put those obstacles right in front of us where we can see them and then challenges us to figure out how to move past them.

There are plenty of obstacles that can interfere in our everyday lives. Some are physical, like an injury, disability or illness. Other are more difficult to define, such as family or work pressure, stress, fear, failure and so much more. Everyone approaches these differently, and all at their own pace. Some may need help from others, while others might want to tackle them solo.

This week’s Ninjas don’t have the luxury of asking for assistance on this demanding Kansas City course. That’s the beauty of it. You know what you have to do, and it’s You vs. The Course. Watching people overcome their own obstacles by conquering the obstacles on the course is beautiful to watch. For that reason, this episode was full of inspiring and emotional runs.

Steven Moul is a 21-year-old rookie who is coping with autism. Steven had a hard time getting through school and rarely participated in outside activities, often staying home and working on his computer. Watching American Ninja Warrior sparked something inside of him to move outside his comfort zone. Competing on the show became a dream and although he went down on the second obstacle, a.k.a. the Big Dipper, it didn’t change what he had accomplished. Not only did he prove to himself that he was capable of working hard and getting his shot at the course, he also gave hope to others with autism or any other obstacle in their way.

Michael Stanger waited in the walk-on line for eight days to follow his dream and compete. Michael wanted to come out and compete this year for his wife, who was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is a terminal illness. The family doesn’t know how much longer she will be here with Michael and their two daughters and they really wanted to experience this time on American Ninja Warrior together. Michael says that he is constantly battling the fear of his wife not being here anymore and it is something he has had to learn to live with.

One of the reasons Michael started to get into shape was so that he could better take care of his wife – picking her up to get her in and out of her wheelchair. He got stronger and his added muscle gave him the confidence to tackle the course.

When Michael got to the top of the warped wall and hit that buzzer, I was in tears. The strength, courage and passion it took to accomplish that with so much on his shoulders was unbelievably inspiring. He said afterward, “Don’t push your dreams and passions off to tomorrow because tomorrow may never come.” So true. Thank you, Michael, for being so strong in so many ways.

Another inspiring run came from Meagan Martin. Last season she was the third woman to get up the warped wall and finish a qualifying course and went the furthest of any woman at the Las Vegas finals. She says she likes to “do things that people don’t think you can.” Meagan, who continues to break boundaries, was the first woman to make it up the warped wall this season, and I know we will see much more from her in the weeks ahead.

American Ninja Warrior

airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.