All eyes will be on the small screen this Saturday night as Borderer Ali Hay competes in his third Ninja Warrior UK final.
The 30-year-old, of Kelso, redeemed himself in the hit ITV show’s eliminator round last Saturday, having splashed out of its semi-final two weeks previously after a shock slip of hand.
And regardless of whether he manages to pick up the coveted Ninja Warrior UK title during the show’s season-five final, Ali, known as the Bearded Ninja, says this year’s competition has been the most enjoyable yet.
“It’s been such an awesome season to watch,” he said.
“The hype around it and the general public awareness of it is so much higher than it has ever been.
“It’s got a wider catchment of people watching it than ever before, and people are really appreciating the athleticism it involves.
“That’s good for the show because it makes it more like a competition rather than a gameshow.”
And it’s that popularity, hype and atmosphere that Ali has made a point of trying to soak up this time around.
“You are so nervous and focused that you don’t get to appreciate what is going on around you,” he said.
“My mission statement from the start this year was to go out, enjoy it and have fun.
“I’m trying to experience it for what it is.
“I think that has come across this season on the TV.
“You can see I have been having a lot of fun. It’s been amazing.”
By reaching his third final, Ali has become the most successful Scottish competitor on Ninja Warrior UK to date.
Last Saturday, Ali was hailed the “beard to be feared” and an act of “poetry in motion” by show hosts Ben Shephard and Chris Kamara, the latter of whom previously promised to run the course naked if the Scot didn’t reach the final.
“Chris and Ben had their beards on and were having a bit of a laugh with me on Saturday night,” Ali added.
“What you didn’t see on the television is that the whole season I’ve been trying to teach Chris the floss dance, so I stopped and had a shot at that with him and made time for a quick selfie.”
Ali sailed through the gruelling earlier stages of the competition before a misplaced hand on the momentum shift obstacle saw him crash out of the semi-final, only for his impressive speed up to that point to clinch him a spot in last week’s eliminator round.
“The anticipation this season has been huge. I feel like each week it’s been building more and more,” he added.
“Last year, there were eight finalists, and this year there are 15, and every one of them has competed in multiple finals across the competition and the world.
“The standard is so high. They are all champions in their own right.
“I always push and come out to do my best, not just for myself but for everybody who has been in my corner either watching from the crowd of from the couch at home.”
He was supported in the audience last week by girlfriend Linsey Young, also of Kelso, dad Mark and around a dozen of his ninja students.
Ali finished third in last year’s final and sixth the year before. You can see how he gets on this Saturday at 6.30pm on ITV.