Inspiring 'American Ninja Warrior' contestant overcomes physical disadvantage to dominate course


Rookie contestant Nate Hansen inspired viewers with his impressive performance on Monday’s season premiere of American Ninja Warrior. Hansen suffers from a growth hormone deficiency which caused him to stop growing when he was 12.

Now 20, Hansen, who is 5-feet-2, was a victim of bullying for much of his adolescent life. “Growing up in middle school and all throughout high school, I was bullied and always called names,” said Hansen. “It was really difficult going through that because people were always underestimating me.”

Hansen has embraced his unique circumstances and wears the number 12 when he competes to celebrate what he has overcome. Despite being much smaller than the average contestant, Hansen dominated the course. Known as the Gnarly Ninja, he became the first contestant of the season to climb the 14.5-foot warp wall and hit the buzzer.

After accomplishing the feat, he turned to announcer Akbar Gbajabiamila and asked, “That gnarly enough for you, Akbar?” He went on to tell the announcer, “Growing up, people told me I couldn't do it my whole life, so I made it happen.”

Hansen finished the qualifying round in third place and will advance to the city finals.

American Ninja Warrior airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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