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Gainesville’s Ninja Warrior Erica Cook

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It would seem that Cook’s tenacity, passion and long history of cross-training would make her a great “American Ninja Warrior” contestant… but the show, Cook would discover, is more than a display of athletics. “Where I failed,” Cook explains, “was in putting together a decent submission video, not in my performance.” Cook’s first shot at television had all the steak but none of the sizzle television producers wanted. She recounts the producers told her, “We think you’re great, the video is cool, but you don’t have the personality for TV.”

There’s that Southern humility, coming back to haunt her. But if Cook has any regrets, they’re impossible to see. “Looking back I understand why. My video was completely athletic. In reality, it’s a TV show, they’re trying to make TV. I’m not going to be the one that climbs up the wall and does backflips, but at the same time I’m not going to fail and have it be devastating. That’s true to how I am.”

Failure, it seems, is yet another surprising key to success for Cook. “There are two people ever who have completed the [American Ninja Warrior] course, everyone else has failed at one point or another and that’s a lot of people to constantly fail. [The producers] told me no. I failed at something I wanted to do. Now I’m going to work harder. For me, failure is really motivating.”

And motivation, in the end, pays off. After her initial rejection Cook went on to test in Orlando where her performance impressed some of the top “American Ninja Warrior” contestants to ever tackle the course. Fast forward to Atlanta in 2016 and Cook turned in one of the top two female performances of the day. Cook would not be denied, and eventually her performance was deemed ready for prime-time.

Despite her achievements, the call that she was cast for “American Ninja Warrior” spinoff “Team Ninja Warrior,” came as a surprise. “[One of my teammates] saw me testing in Orlando, I was doing the hardest part of the course and his response was “Was that a girl who just did that? We don’t see women do that – ever.” The show, in which previous elite “American Ninja Warrior” contestants form teams and tackle a whole new course with new rules, was Cook’s unexpected second shot at American Ninja Warrior greatness.

As has been the case over and over again throughout her life, Cook took on “Team Ninja Warrior” with respect, humility and selfassuredness. “People ask ‘How did you do that entire course without showing one hint of emotion?’ Well, that’s exactly who I am.”

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