Athletes of the Week: Alaskan ninjas continue to multiply in ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Season 15

Athletes of the Week: Alaskan ninjas continue to multiply in ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Season 15
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 8:10 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When Unalakleet’s Nick Hanson became the first Alaskan to compete in “American Ninja Warrior” in 2015, he inspired a state of future ninjas and was dubbed “The Eskimo Ninja.”

When he made the Los Angeles finals the following year, his good friend Forest Strick, of Wasilla, was there in support.

Seven years later, the two competed on the same course in the same episode that aired Monday night on NBC.

“Everything that Nick surrounds himself [with] is so healthy, I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it and I wanted to be a part of it,” Strick said while competing at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in Fairbanks before his American Ninja Warrior debut aired. “Ever since then the ball has been rolling I am just truly blessed to be with him and the things he has helped me step into.”

Both Strick and Hanson went out on the kite surfer obstacle but performed well enough to advance to the Season 15 semifinals as top 11 competitors.

“Being the Eskimo Ninja and being on the show for 10 seasons, it was really awesome for me to have an opportunity to showcase other athletes, especially from these [Alaska Native] games and compete alongside them,” Hanson said. “This year for me Ninja Warrior wasn’t even about my performance, I was just so stoked that Forest was there. ... It was just a great opportunity for me to be there in support for the kids that are going to hopefully going to take my place.”

Michael Snell III, of Fairbanks, hopes to be one of the ninjas to take Hanson’s place. Snell was the third Alaskan competing in Season 15. And even though his run did not make the final broadcast after going out on the third obstacle, Snell says anyone can become a ninja.

“I have two children, there are no ninja gyms for hundreds of miles where I am at, I have a full-time job and a part-time job after that, but I enjoy it,” Snell said. “So if you want to be a ninja, that’s what it takes, you just want to do it, you’ll find your way.”

Season 15 continues with Hanson and Strick competing in the semifinals that have yet to air.