What Did You Think of the American Ninja Warrior Freestyle Event?

One of my favorite shows/sports/competitions, American Ninja Warrior, is returning to television tomorrow. As per tradition, the new season begins with a 3-hour skills competition featuring some of the top competitors.

The vast majority of the skills competition involves variations on normal challenges: Two ninjas may race against each other in a head-to-head challenge or attempt to outjump all other competitors. There’s a team portion and an individual portion.

But this year, they added one new event at the end. It was a freestyle event judged by the hosts of the show. Normally the winners of any event are quantitative–this is the first time an event has been subjectively judged. Which is fine for a fun episode like the skills competition.

Each of 6 competitors had 2 chances to impress the judges by launching themselves from an obstacle and ultimately landing in the water. There were a few interesting takes on the obstacle, but most contestants simply opted to spin a few times in the air and then make a big splash.

I thought it was fine, certainly the start of a fun tradition. But here’s the thing: ninja warrior competitors are really good at not falling. That’s what makes them so impressive. This event put them in the awkward position of trying to do the one thing they try so hard not to do.

Here’s how I’d change it: Let each competitor choose 1 specific section of the entire ninja warrior course on which to do something cool. We’ve seen competitors do awesome, challenging maneuvers on every part of the course over the years, like jumping 2 rungs in the salmon ladder or skipping over optional obstacles. I’m sure every competitor has something cool they’d like to try outside of the realm of real competition. Let them do that thing wherever they want on the course. I bet we’d see some brilliant moves as a result.

What do you think? Did you enjoy the freestyle competition? Who are you rooting for this season?