Ninja Warrior Ali tackles new test as Far East comes calling
A Borders athlete has become only the second Briton to represent his country in one of the world’s toughest televised fitness contests.
Kelso’s Ali Hay will appear on Japanese show Sasuke later this month as part of an elite team of international competitors hoping to complete four gruelling stages of fitness tests.
The three-times Ninja Warrior UK finalist was invited to compete on Sasuke, the original show the UK and US versions were based on, in September, but that opportunity almost passed the 30-year-old by.
“I thought it was spam and was about to delete it when I saw that the sender was TBS, which is one of Japan’s biggest networks and owns the rights to all the Ninja Warrior shows around the world,” he said.
“I opened it, and it was an invite from one of the TBS bosses personally inviting me out to compete in the 37th season of Sasuke.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was gobsmacked. This is like the Olympics of the Ninja Warrior circuit.
“I thought it would be another few years before I was even considered for it.
“They ranked me No 1 Ninja Warrior in the UK. It was an honour to be classed as one of the elite squad out there.”
After two months of preparations and attempting to rest an existing ankle injury, Ali was flown out to Toyko at the end of November to train alongside winners of Ninja Warrior contests in Israel, Hong King, Mongolia, Australia, Germany and America.
“I am the first Scot and the second Brit, after Dion Trigg, to compete on Sasuke,” he added.
“I watched it on telly when I was about 10 years old, and I remember watching these guys on it and thinking they were absolutely nuts.
“A lot of them were there and it was crazy getting to meet them.
“The whole team mixed really well, and I had a wee shot at using the little basic Japanese I’d learned for the trip.”
While Ali is no stranger to the Ninja Warrior UK competition, having reached its final for the last three years running, the Japanese version was a step up again.
“There it is much bigger. It’s filmed outside, there’s mechanical obstacles, a countdown clock and the whole thing is quite a spectacle.
“It’s shown in Japan on New Year’s Eve during a four-hour-long episode, and at the end, if anyone makes it to stage four, they take that on live television.
“Unlike the UK version where you don’t know what lies in store, in Japan they don’t change the course until someone successfully completes all its stages, so we were able to practise for this one.
“I even practised stage one and two without using my left leg.”
And while we can’t reveal how Ali fared on the competition just yet, he did admit he was delighted with his time and at being ranked 76th out of the show’s 100 competitors, with 100 being the highest ranked.
Once in Japan, Ali spent nine days in Toyko training, taking in the sights and also shouldering some of the blame, as the only Scot there, for bringing the wettest weather Japan has seen in November for many a year, with him.
“It was the first time in the show’s history that they had to cancel a day of filming,” he added. “We were trudging around in wellies which, in the end, really knackered a lot of people’s legs come competition time.”
He added: “It’s crazy how Sasuke, the original Ninja Warrior show, has become this worldwide phenomenon,.
“The feedback from the Japanese ninjas was that they have never seen anybody as fast on their course.
“I’m just honoured to be a part of it.”
Launched in Japan in 1997, the show is filmed in Yokohama.