When The Impossible Is No Obstacle: A Triumph Fit For A 'Ninja' Thousands have tried to complete a rigorous obstacle course on American Ninja Warrior. All failed until last week. Busboy Isaac Caldiero describes how it feels to win the warrior title.

When The Impossible Is No Obstacle: A Triumph Fit For A 'Ninja'

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But first, for those of you have never seen the show "American Ninja Warrior," it's based on a long-running Japanese show, "Sasuke." Imagine an army obstacle course redesigned by Dr. Seuss and a team of rock-climbing acrobats.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: And quickly onto the floating boards.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: He went out on the body prop. Nice.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Having no problem here on the bolt rafter. Open sights on this jump. You're landing a two-inch ledge. Oh.


RATH: Since "American Ninja Warrior" first aired in 2009, no one has completed every single obstacle and won until last week.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: This is Isaac Caldiero. He's a bus boy, and he also happens to be one of the best climbers in America. He's been telling us since he started two years ago that if he can get to this point - stage three - that he could win it all.

RATH: On the finale, Isaac Caldiero became the first of thousands to achieve what the show calls total victory - completing all four stages and winning the million-dollar grand prize. We caught up with him on the streets of New York.

ISAAC CALDIERO: Yeah, we're just out running around, checking out the town, meeting my lady Laura, just doing a little sightseeing. We've been doing a lot of work and interviews all week, and so we're just trying to get a little - a relaxing day.

RATH: And enjoying your new celebrity.

CALDIERO: (Laughter).

RATH: So for people who have no idea what this thing is at all, could you first explain briefly what "American Ninja Warrior" is?

CALDIERO: Well, it's known as the most impossible obstacle course in the entire world. And it's never once been beat here in America up until now, and you're talking to the first American ninja warrior (laughter).

RATH: And what's been so difficult about it? For people who haven't seen the course, explain why it's taken so long for a competitor to get past stage three.

CALDIERO: I don't know. There's just so much pressure behind it. There's so much build up and hype over it, and no one can just beat this thing. I feel like that has kind of built this presence behind it where it's like this impossible feat. It's a very heartbreaking competition. I mean, all it takes is one slip, and you're done. You know, it's one shot, one kill. You don't get any rehearsal on any of these obstacles. You compile all of these things together, and that's what makes it the world's hardest obstacle course.

RATH: Tell us what's going through your head when you're looking at that fourth stage - the final obstacle, that 75-foot rope climb.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #4: A 75-foot rope climb in under 30 seconds. Can he do it?

CALDIERO: So even in my training, I had never done anything like that. So all of a sudden when it's like, all right, you have to do this in 30 seconds, I was very nervous. I was like, oh, my gosh, like, here we go.



CALDIERO: My arms kind of slowed down for a second, and all of a sudden I was just like, oh, no, I'm not giving up yet.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #4: Locking those legs in. Oh, man, he is moving fast. Look at the time.

CALDIERO: I just got this last little boost of adrenaline.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #4: Isaac Caldiero is an American ninja warrior, and he's a million dollars richer.

CALDIERO: It still, to this day, is unreal. You know, I'm still kind of in disbelief (laughter).

RATH: In the profiles that we've seen about you, you seem to lead a super frugal lifestyle. Now you've got a million bucks, so how much do you think your life is going to change?

CALDIERO: Yeah, exactly. It's been very simple and frugal, and the way me and Laura like to live our lives is based off of that. We considered ourselves to be rich and happy before all this, so this is just a bonus. You definitely aren't going to see us out driving around in fancy cars and living it up, you know. We're going to keep down to our roots, and we're going to go rock-climbing 'cause that's what we love to do most.

RATH: Isaac Caldiero is the first-ever champion of "American Ninja Warrior." He joined me from the streets of New York City. Isaac, thanks for taking the time. Good luck.

CALDIERO: Thank you, man. It was a pleasure.

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