Hawaii resident makes ‘Ninja Warrior’ appearance
BY NINA WU / firstname.lastname@example.org
For at least five years, Honolulu resident Ky Vuong has known he wanted to be on “American Ninja Warrior,” a televised obstacle course competition which returns for a sixth season this summer on NBC.
“Five years ago, I told my friends I wanted to be on the show,” he said.
With the help of friend and wedding videographer Ian Fernandez of IMF Visions, Vuong finally put together an audition video and photo, which is required to apply. As a result, the fitness buff and owner of Key Fitness Hawaii was invited to a qualifying round of competition in March.
Vuong, 42, believes he is Hawaii’s only male contestant to contend for the title. He was among at least 200 people who tackled the obstacle course on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, Calif.
“I was nervous,” he said. “I had to go first.”
Finalists from five cities (Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami and Denver) advance to the televised portion of the show in Las Vegas, where they’ll face a stunning, four-stage course modeled after Mt. Midoriyama in Japan. The grand prize is $500,000.
The new season of “American Ninja Warrior” will kick off with a two-hour premiere at 8 p.m. Monday, with the finale scheduled to air Sept. 15. Matt Iseman will host, joined by former NFL player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Jenn Brown.
Obstacles on the show typically require a lot of upper-body strength, combined with balance and agility for challenges like the “salmon ladder,” which requires using a bar to hop up a series of hooks like a ladder.
There’s the “rolling escargot,” a human-sized wheel one has to grab on to and roll, plus a “peg board,” which requires traveling along a horizontal plane using just two pegs and the “warp wall,” a 12-foot-plus-high curved wall which contestants have to run up and climb over.
The obstacle course is as much a mental, as it is a physical challenge, said Vuong, especially when you factor in all the lights and cameras along with a live audience.
“In a split second, your hand can slip,” he said. “One little slip and you’re done, and you can be in the best shape.”
The most challenging part was the waiting and the cold, Vuong said. Filming was at night and outdoors, so temperatures would drop to about 50 degrees Farenheit.
To train, Vyoung said he did extra pullups, but fitness was already a part of his daily routine. He’s done marathons, triathlons and the Spartan Series obstacle course.
“I train at the gym religiously,” he said. “If you do everything right, you don’t need to train.”
Vuong, whose family moved to Maryland to seek refuge from the Vietnam War, has been into training since volunteering at the YMCA at the age of 16. He holds a B.A. in exercise physiology from Springfield College and also worked for a few years as a police officer and firefighter in Sunnyvale, Calif., but decided fitness was his calling. He’s married to pharmacist and Punahou graduate Lorrie Chong-Vuong.
Every morning, Vuong is at the gym, where he spends 60 minutes on a Stairmaster set to the most difficult level, followed by swimming in the afternoons and strength training in the evenings, which include rope training and power pull-ups.
While he did not make it to the final round in Las Vegas, Vuong said he would be willing to give it another try.
“I would go back,” he said. “And next time, I want to bring a whole team from Hawaii.”