As a gymnast, Conor Galvin would practice each precise movement in a routine hundreds of times before competition. The constant repetition would embed each movement into muscle memory.
The challenge for athletes in a competition like “American Ninja Warrior” is the unknown. The first time athletes attempt to complete the course, navigating obstacles with names like “jumping spider” and “warped wall,” is when the lights are shining and the cameras are rolling. There are no warm-up routines, no chance to break down the course to understand how to attack each obstacle.
“That’s the crazy thing about it,” said Mr. Galvin, 24, a Baiting Hollow native. “You got to just be ready for whatever they give you.”
In his rookie attempt at winning the ultimate $1 million prize on the show, which airs on NBC Monday nights, Mr. Galvin reached the National Finals in Las Vegas. His journey came to an end in the episode that aired Monday as he failed to complete the course, falling during an obstacle called “tire run.” Competitors have 2 minutes, 30 seconds to complete the course without falling.
The episode featured a brief montage of Mr. Galvin’s routine. He was featured more in-depth earlier in the competition when he finished second at the Baltimore Qualifiers.
Mr. Galvin said he relished the experience and called it a “dream come true.” He was left frustrated at the finish, but eager to get back and compete again during a future season.
“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” he said. “I always watched the show and said, ‘I can do that, I’d love to do that.’ The feeling you get in front of the crowd, doing these super-fun obstacles, it’s hard to even put into words.”
The show’s announcer described Mr. Galvin as having an “outstanding rookie season” during Monday’s episode, which was filmed in June.
Since the episode filmed, Mr. Galvin had to keep the outcome to himself. He said it was tough not talking about it, especially after he was featured in the July 1 episode.
“People are still super pumped that I made it as far as I did,” he said. “They know I’ll be back training even harder for whatever the next opportunity is.”
Mr. Galvin said he got off to a good start at the finals. He said he felt comfortable on the course and was having fun when he ran into trouble a little past the halfway point.
One slip-up can spell doom.
The finals are a four-stage event. The competitors who complete the first course advance to the second stage, where the courses progressively get harder. At the end of three stages, anyone still standing gets the chance to complete Mount Midoriyama in under 30 seconds to win $1 million. It’s only happened once in the show’s 11-year history.
“I want to see someone get the $1 million this year,” he said. “We always say it’s not one ninja vs. another. It’s all the ninjas versus the course. So I’m rooting for someone to take down that course, whoever it may be.”
Mr. Galvin graduated from Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead and then competed in gymnastics at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he majored in health science. He’s currently working to complete his doctorate in physical therapy at Sacred Heart University.
The day after he returned from competing in Las Vegas he began an eight-week clinical rotation for physical therapy. And now he just started classes again Monday.
“It’s definitely a busy summer, but absolutely a dream come true,” he said.
While there’s no guarantee he’d be selected for the show again next season, Mr. Galvin said his success this year should give him a good chance. At the Baltimore Qualifiers, Mr. Galvin was one of nine competitors out of 99 to complete the course and he did so in the second-fastest time. He then advanced to the Baltimore City finals, where he earned the trip to nationals.