New London 'Ninja Warrior' Samer Delgado advances to finals

Samer Delgado, a personal trainer, holds a human flag pose while training on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at Waterfront Park in New London.  The New London resident is competing in NBC’s popular prime-time series 'American Ninja Warrior.' (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Samer Delgado, a personal trainer, holds a human flag pose while training on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at Waterfront Park in New London. The New London resident is competing in NBC’s popular prime-time series "American Ninja Warrior." (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

“All I can say is that the course is much harder than it looks,” says Samer Delgado, the man who recently has become known as New London’s very own “American Ninja Warrior.”

Delgado, a 6-foot, 187-pound single father of two young daughters was chosen as one of about 600 athletes from a pool of more than 77,000 applicants to participate in the ninth season of NBC’s popular prime-time series “American Ninja Warrior.”

“Ninja Warrior” is an American sports entertainment competition that features hundreds of competitors attempting to complete a series of difficult obstacle courses. This season started airing in June.

From six regional competitions, the 30 best competitors from each advanced to a regional final. Delgado was one of those select 30 from the Cleveland regional contest to make it into the finals.

Delgado has been seen vying on only one episode of “Ninja” so far, which aired on July 10 and featured the Cleveland regionals, but he’ll be back again on Monday. This new episode will focus on the regional finals, from which the winners will move onto the finale in Las Vegas. Episodes of the finale will begin airing in September.

Delgado isn’t allowed to say whether he is one of the few to make it to Vegas, but fans can tune into NBC at 8 p.m. Monday to find out.

In April, when The Day last spoke to Delgado, he was focusing on improving his forearm and finger muscle strength so that he could hang on to ledges and various edges in the competition.

“I have back strength and pull-up power, but if I can’t hang on to what I’m gripping, that means nothing,” he had said.

But aside from making last-minute tweaks to weaker muscle groups, he knew even then, however, that being physically fit for the competition wouldn’t be enough — especially since he's a first-time competitor on the show.

“You need to be strong in both mind and body,” he says, “and rookies often don’t perform very well through the competition.

“It’s because of the nerves. There is a lot of pressure because of the cameras and the audience, and there is a lot building up to it. Rookies tend to go out pretty fast. So I prepared mentally as much as I did physically.”

That mental preparation, Delagdo says, mostly involved laying on his bed each night to watch reruns of the show on YouTube. He would study each obstacle and then mentally imagine himself performing each one.

“I tried to anticipate the feeling of how it would feel with the audience and the lights and the cameras, and I kept telling myself that I needed to stay in the moment and to keep the adrenaline from taking you out. You can really black out from so much adrenaline, so it was important to stay in the moment,” he says.

That preparation obviously came in handy once in the competition. At one point during the second obstacle, Delgado says, his shoe fell off. He was able, however, to quickly put it back on and keep going.

“You only get one chance to do well. So I told myself to stay in the moment and to only focus on one obstacle at a time,” he said.

And, of course, there were also some surprises along the way.

“When you’re on top of the obstacles, it’s only then that you realize that these things are huge. They are sitting 12 to 14 feet over water, and that was a bit scary. The balancing obstacle was also so long, which I wasn’t expecting,” he says. “It was like 15 to 20 feet of beam that you are running on top of and which was moving from side to side. When you see it in front of you, it is surprisingly more scary than you thought it would be.”

The qualifying competitions, Delgado says, ran straight through the night in temperatures that hovered in the 30s. It wasn’t until 2:30 a.m. when he competed.

“And then I had to wait all night to hear the news, and I really had no idea how I was doing compared to the rest of the competition because they didn’t tell us anything,” he says.

It wasn’t until 5:30 a.m. that Delgado finally heard the results and learned that he would be advancing to the regional finals.

The regional finals, Delgado says, was held only a day after the first qualifying competition. That obstacle course, he says, consisted of the same original obstacles that he had competed on the day before, but with four added obstacles tacked onto the end.

“These last four obstacles were upper-body killers, and they do it on purpose to see if you have what it takes,” Delgado says. “I had to really fight through each and every obstacle.”

m.biekert@theday.com 

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