Goldstein made it to the fifth obstacle in the Philadelphia preliminary round. Her time was fast enough to qualify her for the Philadelphia city finals.
The Floating Steps. The Log Grip. The Paddle Boards. The Wall Drop. Rolling Thunder. The Warped Wall.
These were the names of the obstacles Cherry Hill’s Rachael Goldstein was presented with as she prepared to maker her first-ever run on the reality television show, “American Ninja Warrior,” in May. Goldstein wasn’t able to complete the course, but she got far enough to finish in the top 30 out of about 120 competitors, qualifying her for the next round, the city finals.
Not bad for someone who had just taken up ninja obstacle course training less than a year ago.
“I moved to New Jersey last June,” Goldstein said. “I really wanted to try it when I lived in Pennsylvania, but there wasn’t really anything.”
“I wasn’t training to be on TV or anything,” she added. “I just wanted to try it.”
On “American Ninja Warrior,” athletes try to conquer a taxing course featuring difficult obstacles testing every muscle in the body. Some of the obstacles require upper body strength, others require strong leaping skills, and some may require precise balance. Athletes progress through multiple rounds featuring increasingly difficult courses. Athletes who advance to the final round in Las Vegas and complete the final course can win $1 million.
Goldstein admits she wasn’t an avid watcher of “American Ninja Warrior,” but was interested in taking up the obstacle course runs herself. Her athletic background helped her pick up many of the obstacles quicker than others.
“I did gymnastics growing up,” Goldstein said. “I had decent balance and was able to do pull ups.”
Goldstein trains at Pinnacle Parkour in Cherry Hill, the Movement Lab in Hainesport and performs regular workouts art Lifetime Fitness in Mt. Laurel. Goldstein also competes in the National Ninja League, an organization running dozens of open competitions where athletes can test their skills on courses similar to those seen on ‘American Ninja Warrior.”
Getting on the television show itself is not easy. “American Ninja Warrior” received approximately 70,000 applicants for the 2016 season. Out of the applicants, less than 1,000 are chosen to compete.
Goldstein found out she had a spot to compete just days prior to the competition.
“I found out seven days before they were filming,” she said. “I was called a little bit after everyone else I think.”
What made it even more difficult was Goldstein had a trip planned to St. Lucie for the same week of the competition. Goldstein went on the trip and returned home early to compete.
At the competition, Goldstein got to see the course for the first time. The course included two obstacles new to “American Ninja Warrior.” Despite being a first-time competitor, Goldstein was confident she could go far into the course.
“You don’t know what it’s going to be until you get there,” Goldstein said. “When I got there, I thought it was doable and had a chance to finish it.”
Goldstein was one of the earlier runners on the course. She got past the first four obstacles rather quickly and moved onto the fifth, named Rolling Thunder. In this obstacle, athletes had to hang from a large metal wheel hanging on a track. The competitors had to roll the wheel from one end to the other using only their hands and arms. The obstacle proved to be difficult, with only eight competitors conquering it. Goldstein was one of the many competitors whose run ended on Rolling Thunder.
“It was not easy,” Goldstein said. “It took a lot of moves to be able to get distance for the wheel to roll, and it was heavy. You thought you were moving, but the wheel would only move six inches.”
After completing her run, Goldstein watched the other runners conquer the course. Despite sitting in the top-30 for the entire night, advancing to the city finals wasn’t on Goldstein’s mind.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” she said. “It wasn’t even on my mind until someone mentioned to me that I had a chance to make it.”
Goldstein’s time was fast enough for 29th place, good enough to qualify for the city finals the next day.
Goldstein was also a part of history, as she was one of four women to advance to the city finals. It was the first time in “American Ninja Warrior” history four women advanced to the city finals in a single preliminary.
“To have all four get to go is awesome,” Goldstein said. “It shows that girls can be strong competitors as well.”
The Philadelphia city finals have already been taped, but the episode won’t run until August on NBC. Goldstein didn’t talk about what happened in the city finals, but did say she plans to return to “American Ninja Warrior” in future seasons.