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Before this year, no woman had ever completed Stage 1 in the national finals of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.
Enter: Jessie Graff, superheroine.
The 32-year-old stuntwoman, who wowed viewers by completing a top-speed Los Angeles qualifying run in a Wonder Woman outfit this year and has competed on the show last year, expertly navigated the Log Grip, Propeller Bar, Jumping Spider and Warped Wall (translation: should-be-impossible obstacles) on the New Orleans course Monday. And she had 12 seconds to spare. And she did it all in an awesome Green Lantern outfit. (She’s into superheroes — she’s done stunts on Supergirl.) And we want to be like her when we grow up.
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So, we chatted with Graff, and learned six things about the most successful female Ninja Warrior competitor ever.
Her superhero outfits are custom-made.
Graff’s Wonder Woman sports bra/short skort ensemble was made specifically for her by “a friend who sews,” says Graff. After that one proved successful (Graff was a top 3 qualifier out of all girls and guys), Graff wore a green version Monday. That second outfit she’s calling the Green Lantern outfit, which had the finishing touch of a marker-drawn Green Lantern ring on her finger. Next? More sporty superhero outfits that she’ll wear and sell to the public, via the Pi Movement website. Yes, dear reader, you will be able to dress like Graff.
She’s the most well-rounded athlete we’ve ever encountered.
After taking circus classes at age 6 and performing in her basement for neighbors, Graff started catching other kids on the flying trapeze when she was only 12. “The rule was I wasn’t allowed to catch anyone who outweighed me by more than 20 pounds,” she says. After that, she did competitive gymnastics for 6 years, pole vaulted through high school and college, and earned black belts in Taekwondo and Kung Fu since then. Now that she’s a stuntwoman who does everything from tumbling on Make It or Break It, to trampolining on Another Period and “anything on rooftops, sides of buildings or bridges, dramatic wipeouts,” she says she’s constantly learning from fellow stunt people who specialize in areas different from her own.
Graff credits a devastating injury with getting her Ninja-ready.
“The reason I am currently good at Ninja Warrior, is because I blew out my knee in Season 6,” she says. Graff tore her ACL, TCL and meniscus, and couldn’t participate in her regular workouts that revolve around martial arts, gymnastics and parkour. She thought, “I need a goal. I need something to focus on, put my physical energy into. I’m looking at Ninja Warrior.” So, Graff spent eight months focused primarily on her grip strength and pull-ups. At the start, she could only do three pull-ups in a row. Right before competing this year, she could do 30 pull-ups consecutively. “Without that knee injury, I never would have changed focus,” she says.