Josh Levin says competing on American Ninja Warrior is much harder than it looks on TV. He would know—the rising Northeastern University senior and highly accomplished rock climber has done just that.
On the NBC show, contestants navigate challenging four-stage obstacle courses in cities across the country. After competing in city qualifiers and then city finals, the remaining contestants move on to the finals in Las Vegas. Season 8 premieres Wednesday night at 8 p.m. and features the Los Angeles qualifier—which was taped in April and where Levin competed with about 100 other contestants.
Levin’s performance in the qualifier can’t be revealed until the episode airs. He’s hosting a viewing party Wednesday night for family and friends back home in California, where he’s also currently working on co-op at Apple.
It is a competition…but at least for me it’s never about beating someone else. It’s that we want to rise together in the community to defeat these obstacles. As a model for a competition, that’s really unique and really cool.
— Josh Levin, E’17, on how he views competing on American Ninja Warrior
How he got there
Levin, E’17, is a mechanical engineering major and co-founder of the Northeastern Climbing Team. He says his journey to American Ninja Warrior began during childhood when he discovered his passion for myriad physical activities and competition. As a kid he tried flying trapeze and earned his second-degree black belt. But when he took his first rock-climbing lesson at age 4, he was hooked.
Levin won his first national championship at age 9 in speed climbing. Over the next decade of competing in the U.S. and more than 20 countries, he captured 18 more national championships as well as multiple U.S. speed climbing records and the bronze medal at the 2008 Youth World Championships.
He has trained at American Ninja Warrior gyms across the country and had hoped to apply last season before a torn labrum in his left shoulder sidelined him from rock climbing and training for a full year.
Last season two competitors became the first ever to complete all the stages in the Las Vegas finals, and the faster of the two won the $1 million prize. Now nearly fully healed, Levin has his sights set on becoming the youngest winner ever.
Competing for his mentor
Levin credits much of his success and passion for climbing to his mentor and first coach, Stacey Li Collver. In 2003, she was diagnosed with an incurable lung disease and is currently on the wait list for a second double-lung transplant. Levin said that if he were to win American Ninja Warrior, he would donate a portion of his winnings for her medical expenses.
In his application video for the show, Levin said, “She’s the biggest inspiration in my life, and I want to win this for her.”
Update, Thursday June 2: Josh Levin finished the Los Angeles qualifier course with a time of four minutes and 35 seconds to move on to the city finals round of the competition.