A rigorous training schedule paid off for firefighter Thomas Kofron on Monday as he returned to NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”
Kofron, 31, made it through the reality show’s Los Angeles city finals, earning a berth at the national finals in Las Vegas. There, he’ll compete against athletes from across the United States for a $1 million grand prize.
Kofron made his “American Ninja Warror” debut on June 6, finished his qualifying round at No. 3 among the top 30 male competitors.
On Monday, the Cal Poly graduate returned to Universal Studios Hollywood to tackle a tough 10-obstacle course.
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Kofron got off to a strong start Monday, negotiating obstacles such as the Spinning Bridge, Doorknob Drop and Warped Wall with ease. But the 6-foot-1, 175-pound firefighter lost his grip as he negotiated a new challenge, the Baton Pass, plunging into a chilly pool of water.
Even though he failed to finish the course, Kofron’s time — 4 minutes, 58 seconds — was speedy enough to place him in among the top 15 male competitors.
“During my run, I was going really fast, having too much fun to want to slow down and take a breather between obstacles,” Kofron recalled Tuesday.
“Looking back, I wished I had paced myself a little better to save some strength for the Baton Pass,” he said. “It was the hardest obstacle on the course, but nothing I shouldn’t have been able to conquer.”
Kofron, a Ventura native who graduated from Cal Poly in 2009, has worked for Cal Fire for about seven years. He’s currently stationed in Monterey after a stint in Cambria, but plans to return to San Luis Obispo in September.
Kofron told The Tribune that his firefighter training gives him an edge on his fellow “American Ninja Warrior” athletes.
He also credited one of his favorite hobbies, rock climbing, with helping him through the show’s challenging course.
Climbing “requires a lot of strength and coordination,” Kofron explained, especially upper-body and grip strength. “It definitely helps with your balance and moving your body through space.”
The 10th season of “American Ninja Warrior,” which premiered May 30, features obstacle courses in cities including Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The winners of those citywide competitions move onto the national finals, which will air Aug. 27 through Sept. 10 on NBC.
On Tuesday, Kofron said he’s “nervous going in against the best ninjas from around the country and facing a really hard course. But he added, he’s “also really excited that I’m going to get such a cool opportunity that most people don’t get the chance to experience.”