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Newcastle soars in Australian Ninja Warrior 2022


When Australian Ninja Warrior 2022 debuted on free-to-air TV on Monday 27 June, 562,000 viewers tuned in to see a new batch of athletes tackling an obstacle course like no other.

Among the group of 72 contestants hoping to take home the crown was Newcastle East musician Jason Mitchell, aka “The Saxy Ninja’”

The 34-year-old Army Reservist, who has been playing the saxophone for most of his life, made Ninja Warrior history by being the first athlete to tackle the course supported by a group of musicians.

“It’s the most musical run in Ninja Warrior history,” said the show’s co-host, Channel Nine journalist Leila McKinnon.

But, for Mitchell it was silent.

“I couldn’t tell they were playing until I looked back at the footage,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“You honestly don’t hear anything at the time, you’re so focused. I couldn’t even hear the crowd.”

What he may have missed at the time was the ribbing he was given by Will and Woody from KIIS FM’s national Drive show for wearing his pyjamas to compete.

“They were definitely not pyjamas,” Mitchell says.

“They were board shorts, just a bit faded. You’ve got to be comfortable when you’re competing.”

And, Mitchell should know.

This year was the second time he’d competed on the popular show, first drawn to the sport having watched the Japanese version a decade earlier.

“I liked the fun aspect and the creativity, the fitness side of things was just a bonus,” he says.

“There’s something very rewarding about learning about how your body moves in space.”

Ninja, Mitchell says, is an amalgamation of many skill sets.

“It’s gymnastics, it’s parkour, it’s rock climbing, it’s about grip-strength, the timing of laches, hip throws, catch saddles… it can be intimidating, and taxing but it’s exercise and it’s playful fun.”

Racing against a competitor he believes has a chance at taking home this year’s win, Mitchell was eliminated in last week’s semi-final round. 

“It was a surprise to me to go down on the Anaconda,” he says.

“It’s normally an obstacle I don’t have a problem with.

“But, I guess that’s the nature of the course, I was racing a strong competitor, I was racing the clock and I let it beat me in the end.”

It hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm though, the Saxy Ninja vowing to return next season.

Mitchell wasn’t the only Novocastrian to make a mark on this year’s series.

Ninja Parc Newcastle head coach Mitch Bird was kept busy behind the scenes, selected as one of 10 official course testers at this year’s competition.

“I think the course was well-rounded this year, there were lots of new obstacles but there was a real balance,” Bird says.

“You don’t want it too challenging because athletes drop out too soon, but you also don’t want it to be too easy.

“I think it involved a lot more speed this year.”

So who will win this year’s Australian Ninja Warrior title?

“I feel it could be an upset,” Bird told the Newcastle Weekly.

“There are some really good ninjas in the mix this year, a lot of younger people having a go which has been great to see.

“It’s been a very different year.

“I guess we’ll find out soon enough who wins.”

The grand finale of Australian Ninja Warrior 2022 will air on Sunday night, with 36 ninjas vying for the crown, and the chance to take home $200,000.

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