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By Echo Menges
Sixteen-year-old Elijah Browning made his debut on national television at the end of May as the first teenage American Ninja Warrior competitor.
The popular show is a grueling physical competition where contestants compete to see who can finish the Ninja Warrior obstacle courses in the shortest amount of time. Many contestants never reach the finish line.
Browning, who was the first to finish the televised qualifying course, finished the show with the second best time. He has close family ties to Edina, Missouri. His late grandparents are still well known throughout the region, and his father was a Knox County High School graduate.
The following Q&A interview with Browning was conducted via email ahead of his television debut on May 31, 2021. He will appear on the NBC show again as a competitor on July 12, for those interested in watching.
Interview with Elijah Browning
Q: What are your connections to Edina/ Knox County?
A: My grandparents were Jim and Sandy Browning, lifelong residents of Edina. My dad, David, grew up in Edina, and my uncle, Michael Browning, farms in Edina.
Q: How old are you? Where do you live? What school do you go to? What kind of work do you do? Who are your parents, grandparents? What town to they live in?
A: I am 16-years-old and I live in Thompson’s Station, TN. I invest in and broker sports cards, such as football, basketball and baseball. It’s something I’m truly passionate about!
Currently, I’m 16-years-old and home schooled, which is helpful since I travel so much. 🙂 My mom and dad (Renee and David) live in Thompson’s Station, TN. My Korean grandmother (a.k.a. Mimi) lives with us as well! I also have two siblings, Julian, who is 11 and also in the ninja warrior world, and Vivian who is 8.
Q: Why did you decide to participate in American Ninja Warrior?
A: I always watched the show from an early age (6-years-old) and thought it was so cool! I turned our house into obstacles, jumping from couches, climbing door frames, etc. At age 9, my dad asked an old friend, Travis Rosen (who was on American Ninja Warrior for 10+ seasons) to have a surprise birthday breakfast with me. At that point, I knew I wanted to become a Ninja Warrior! He trained me for a couple years and then, I began doing small competitions regionally and placing well. At age 11, I was doing well enough to participate in the Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association’s National Finals and placed second overall, which only fueled the fire further. Then, at age 13, I was on the inaugural season of American Ninja Warrior Junior on the Universal Kids Television Network. From there, I committed fully to the ninja warrior sport.
Q: How did you prepare for the season? And, when did you begin your training?
A: I never really stop training throughout the year. I train six-days-a-week. A typical day is two to three hours of training. Some days are “push” days, some days are “pull” days, some day’s are “leg” days, which is probably the most important. I also put in a lot of time on my personal ninja course at my house, and then I have upper arm holds and tools to train on in my room, like rock climbing holds. During the duration of filming the show, I’ve trained as much as seven hours a day. Also, while the show is not taping, I participate weekly throughout the country at various Ninja Warrior competitions in both the National Ninja League and Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association.
Q: Do you have a trainer and who are they?
A: I’m pretty much self-trained, but I do train with folks like Sam Sann, RJ Roman, Kaden Lebsack, Enzo Wilson and several other amazing ninjas who are also on the show this season. I’ll usually spend anywhere from two to three days – up to a week – traveling to train with them. We push each other incredibly hard.
Q: What advice do you have for young people thinking about competing in American Ninja Warrior?
A: Don’t get caught up with what others can or can’t do. You have to focus on you, where you are, what your ability level is, and where you can improve. Also, don’t get caught up in early successes and failures. You’re changing classes in competitions by age, and everybody’s bodies are constantly changing. Whether you’re young or old, you’re constantly learning what your body is capable of.
Q: What was your favorite part of the competition?
A: Being on the “real” course for the show was awesome! Also, being there with friends I compete with throughout the year was so much fun! And the production side of the show (filming, interviews, technical aspects) is really exciting to experience.
Q: What was your least favorite part of the competition?
A: Being filmed and competing overnight is a challenge. Most people don’t realize that we film overnight for lighting purposes for the show. Because of that, our bodies are used to sleeping at that time. So, I had to change my sleep schedule to accommodate that and give myself the best chance possible to do well.
Q: What is your favorite challenge on the obstacle course?
A: Actually, I love all of them for different reasons! And I love the course as a whole. I study the layout, figure out hand placement and footings. It’s just fun to try to challenge myself to things I’ve never seen or tried before.
Q: What is your least favorite challenge on the obstacle course?
A: There is one called “Vertical Limits” that is pure evil. It’s miserable. lol
Q: If there is anything you want to add, feel free to do that here.
A: Being on the show is such a cool, incredible experience! I hope to have that opportunity for years to come. And make sure you watch the season 13 premier on May 31 on NBC! I’ll be on that episode. Also, I’m on Instagram (@ elijahthebossninja) and YouTube (search Elijah The Boss Ninja).