Spokane has a strong history with “American Ninja Warrior.”
In June, Sandy Zimmerman became the first mother to complete the “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course, and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Alexi Matousek, who joined Providence Northwest Heart and Lung, part of the Spokane Heart Institute, in the fall, competed in seasons seven through 10.
Today, the city adds another ninja to the list: “Dan the Man.”
Daniel Hoxie, 11, is a junior ninja in the second season of “American Ninja Warrior Junior.” His episode airs at 6 p.m. Friday on Universal Kids.
Hoxie started watching “American Ninja Warrior” when he was 6 and kept watching because he liked how the show featured athletes on an obstacle course that wasn’t just a trampoline course.
Hoxie learned about “American Ninja Warrior Junior” after his friends Lindsey and Brett Zimmerman, daughter and son of Sandy, competed on the show.
“I thought ‘Hey, I want to do that,’ ” Hoxie said. “I wanted to be on it because kids don’t have many chances to do the same obstacles as the adults.”
Hoxie plays basketball and does cross-country, but most of his “American Ninja Warrior Junior” training took place in his backyard where he has a Salmon Ladder, slackline and grip rig.
“I don’t usually let my friends play on them, but, if they really, really want to, I make a few exceptions,” Hoxie said with a laugh. “Sometimes when I play on it, they’re like, ‘I can’t do this,’ and get hard on themselves, and I say, ‘If you can’t do it, try the step before it.’ ”
Hoxie’s “American Ninja Warrior Junior” application process involved filming videos of himself completing obstacles and talking about why he wanted to be on the show, plus an online application.
Hoxie found out he was chosen to compete after his mother received a phone call from the show.
“My mom came out into the living room and said, ‘You got a very special call. You got on the show,’ ” Hoxie said. “I was like, ‘Yes!’ I didn’t tell everybody because you have to keep it a secret, but you can tell close friends and family.”
Hoxie, his parents, grandparents and a family friend traveled to Los Angeles in the summer for filming.
“American Ninja Warrior Junior” features junior athletes competing in head-to-head courses alongside reigning champs and fan favorites from season one in three age brackets: 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14.
Hoxie competed alongside Andrew Marr of St. Louis, Rebekah Cornwall of Thomasville, North Carolina, and Sienna Perez of Larchmont, New York.
“It was amazing because I got to see returning ninjas and new ninjas,” Hoxie said. “I shared a couple tips, and so did a couple other ninjas.”
“American Ninja Warrior” athletes Drew Dreschel, Najee Richardson and Jessie Graff, some of Hoxie’s favorite ninjas, acted as mentors for the junior ninjas during filming.
Hoxie’s season continues over the next few months, and the three final winners, one per age bracket, will be crowned on June 12.
Season two features obstacles “American Ninja Warrior” fans will recognize, including the Shrinking Steps, Floating Steps, Little Dipper, Spider Walls, Double Tilt Ladders, Crazy Cliffhanger, Block Run, Flying Squirrel, Wingnuts and Skyhooks.
Hoxie enjoyed the Wingnuts, which involve swinging from side to side and jumping from one bar to another, because he loves flying through the air and was nervous about Block Run, Little Dipper and Double Tilt Ladders.
“The Little Dipper looks like a ladle,” Hoxie said. “It goes down and up and you’re hanging on a bar between two tracks and you go down and it throws you and you have to go on a cargo net.”
Hoxie watched Zimmerman’s run in Tacoma, but seeing the “American Ninja Warrior Juniors” set for the first time was overwhelming.
“It was nerve-wracking and breathtaking,” he said. “I didn’t know the set was that big.”
Zimmerman returned the support during Hoxie’s run via FaceTime, though he said she always offers encouragement during training.
“She says, ‘No matter how you do, we’ll cheer you on,’ ” Hoxie said.
It’s advice similar to what Hoxie would give to young athletes who want to appear on “American Ninja Warrior Junior.”
“If you’re on the slower side and you get picked on and you’re a ninja, once they see your episode, if you get on the show, they won’t pick on you anymore,” Hoxie said. “No matter how small or tall, you can do it.”
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