Last May, Zephyr native Brittany Hanks competed on American Ninja Warrior in Oklahoma City, fulfilling a longtime dream and surviving an exhaustive application process to appear on the hit NBC obstacle challenge show.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way I wanted,” Hanks said of the experience. “We actually had one of the toughest regions for women. We didn’t have any women finishers, and we didn’t have one woman get past the third obstacle. I actually ended up going out on the second obstacle, unfortunately. I just made kind of a rookie mistake.”
Hanks didn’t know if she would ever have the opportunity to redeem herself. After all, getting on the show the first time was hard enough. “I took it really, really hard,” she said. “Immediately, as soon as I fell I was like, how are they ever going to give me another chance?” But after re-applying, Hanks will compete once again in American Ninja Warrior this March 26 and 27 in San Antonio. Her appearance will run on NBC sometime in June.
Hanks said she will be more prepared this time around. “I knew immediately that it wasn’t that I wasn’t strong enough,” she said. “I had to learn to get mentally prepared. I’ve tried to do a few more competitions where I’m in front of people. It’s not that I was nervous, I’m just trying to make sure that before I ever touch an obstacle, I’m analyzing it well to make sure I know where to put my hands and I know exactly what I’m going to do. That way I’m completely focused.”
Hanks’s background prepared her well for the competition. She grew up in Amarillo and moved to Zephyr in eighth grade. “I did every sport out there,” Hanks said. “I did cross country, basketball, track and cheerleading.”
Hanks also has a strong background in gymnastics, which she said was the biggest help for American Ninja Warrior. “I’ve been a gymnast since I was about 6,” she said.
In college at Tarleton State, Hanks studied pre-med and starting lifting more weights and running more often. She started watching American Ninja Warrior, and said her friends prodded her to apply. “I actually mostly tried out because a bunch of friends kept posting stuff on my Facebook,” she said, “saying, ‘Brittany, you should try this!’ So I did, and that’s where we are today.”
All through her training and competing, Hanks carries the memory of her late grandfather, who inspired her to achieve and helped create her nickname: The Blue Ninja.
“People would tell him, ‘Bob, you’re not smart enough. You can’t be a doctor,’” Hanks said. “He actually ended up graduating from Baylor with honors, and he practiced dentistry for years. We used to sit around the dinner table and talk about biochemistry and physics.”
As a Navy veteran, her grandfather’s favorite color was blue. Hanks said the color helps remind her she can achieve anything.
While she trains for competition, Hanks lives in Fort Worth and is about to begin a job at an infertility clinic where she’ll test samples and help people have babies. “I’m really excited to start,” she said.
Hanks said the entire Ninja Warrior experience has been an incredible whirlwind. “Two years ago, I was sitting on a couch watching this show like everybody else,” she said. “Now I’m in this world with this amazing community of people. This isn’t one of those sports where you boo somebody and root for somebody else. Everyone’s helpful and everyone wants to see each other beat the course. It’s just an amazing opportunity that words cannot describe.”
More information on American Ninja Warrior competitions and showtimes can be found at www.nbc.com/american-ninja-warrior.