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01/07/2021
Peninsula Ninjas take on Mt Midoriyama again
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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Not only has the 2021 season of Australian Ninja Warrior on Channel 9 brought a killer new course to Australian television screens, it’s also showcasing five Mornington Peninsula resident Ninjas who are tackling the course. More than 200 eager athletes trained to tackle the world’s most difficult obstacle source. Locals shining bright on our screens this year include Charlie Robbins, Troy Cullen, Ashlin Herbert, Zak Stolz and Sarah Blackmore. We spoke to the latter two Ninjas about their experience this year and what’s next on their agendas.

Sarah is a returning ninja aged 24. Working as a gymnastics coach for children with special needs, she made an impressive debut last year and hopes to be even stronger for her second run of the course this year. Last year Sarah was one of only eight women to make it to the semi-finals and came so close to making it further through the course than her boyfriend and fellow Ninja, Ashlin Herbert. After being diagnosed with ADHD this year, she is inspired to advocate Ninja Warrior sports as an effective outlet for the treatment. In preparation for this year, Sarah has been training with the Mornington Peninsula boys.

“This year’s courses seemed insane,” she says. “I was excited to give it a try but obviously didn’t get to try all the obstacles. Hopefully they feature some of these obstacles next year too. In between season four and five I had a full ankle reconstruction, so I didn’t get to do as much training as I had hoped. Ashlin and I are currently in Hotham working and spending a bit of time up here snowboarding and working. Door frames and slippery ice is the most we can do with our training now.”

At 22, Zak is also a returning Ninja and last year was one of the three ninjas who climbed the summit of Mt Midoriyama yet was beaten in time by Ben Polson. Fans first met Zak in Season 3, where he made it to the grand final, so he’s seen as Ninja Warrior royalty and he’s hoping he’ll once again make it up Mt Midoriyama to this time be crowned Australia’s Ninja Warrior. When not training, Zak spends his time as a timberyard worker, gymnastics coach and student. Next on the agenda is to complete his degree, ride out the pandemic and travel before beginning to plan the rest of his life – all while training harder than ever.

“Personally, I found this year’s course to be hands down the most difficult of the lot,” he says. “Not only were the obstacles new and very difficult to emulate in training but the standard of competitors is ever-increasing at the same rate, so it’s almost a wombo-combo of increased pressure. My training process probably looked identical to the other ‘Peninjas’ – a nickname for the Ninjas from the Peninsula. We do our best to enjoy every moment of it and keep it as light and fun as possible. I’m a firm believer of the statement ‘If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life’. This is exactly the same.”

The season’s not-to-be-missed final is on Tuesday, July 6 – and for the first time ever it will be Ninja versus Ninja in a record-breakers’ special airing on Wednesday, July 7.

It’s been a year since Mt Midoriyama was conquered, and this year the brutal monster is seeking revenge. The course includes 26 obstacles that have never been seen before and will no doubt push the Ninjas to new levels of punishing endurance. With a course that delights and excites fans so much so that it’s become a global phenomenon, and for the first time the Ninjas have been able to pick their own path.

Support our Peninjas by tuning in and make sure to keep your eyes peeled to see who wins the title of Australian Ninja Warrior 2021.

KATE SEARS

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