Two men made history in American Ninja Warrior finale, but only one took home $1M

Last night’s three-hour American Ninja Warrior finale featured many firsts: The first competitors to complete stage three in the Las Vegas Finals, the first competitor to summit Mount Midoriyama, and the first competitor to lose out on the million dollar prize, despite having done something that no American had ever done before, in perhaps the most dramatic way imaginable.

Geoff “Popeye” Britten made the 75-foot rope climb and hit the buzzer atop the menacing Mount Midoriyama in 29.65 seconds, just 0.35 seconds before his allotted 30 seconds ran out, in a suspense-filled finish for the ages — and then Isaac Caldiero immediately did the same thing, only faster. Caldiero’s blazing-fast 26.14 second mark was good enough to win him the million and to send the first person to mount the show’s version of Everest down the mountain with empty pockets.

For the uninitiated, American Ninja Warrior airs on NBC and pits absurdly conditioned athletes against a series of absurdly intricate/sadistic obstacle courses, throughout a season that culminates in the best of the best taking a crack at a five-stage challenge for the coveted $1 million dollar prize.

Despite having been on-air for six seasons, however, before last night not a single competitor was up to the challenge of completing stage three of the finals, much less what was waiting for them afterwards. Then, in one fell swoop, the near-impossible happened — twice.

“Winning this event always seemed impossible,” Isaac Caldiero said. “As the first American Ninja Warrior I want to use this opportunity to inspire the world to find your impossible and conquer it.”

For most of us, that’s the first obstacle on the first stage of this course.

A tip of the hat to these super athletes and our condolences to Britten, who gutted it out, made history, and came oh so close to the $1 million. Hopefully making the rounds on the morning talk shows, and some props on sites like this one will be some sort of consolation.