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Madera farmer battles in ‘American Ninja Warrior’

For The Madera Tribune

Madera native Christian Brown-Johnson competes on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”


When Madera native Christian Brown–Johnson, 24, showed up to Universal Studios in Hollywood last week, he was ready to take part in NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” competition.

But there was an issue.

The “Ag Ninja,” as he was dubbed by the show’s producers, showed up at 8 p.m. to compete, but didn’t hit the American Ninja Warrior course until after 4 a.m., and at that point, he was somewhat tired.

Producers and other personnel from the show, showed the contestants the sets around the area along with the actual course itself. They saw how to get through it all, but Brown-Johnson waited more than eight hours to get his chance.

“I ended up being one of the last people to go. I didn’t run the course until about 4:45 a.m. the next morning,” the “Ag Ninja” said. “It was a long night of standing around and just watching on the TV they set up to watch the contestants as they ran it.”

When the “Ag Ninja” got his chance, he faced a daunting task.

The first and second part of the obstacle course; the “shrinking steps” and “walk the plank,” eliminated half of the contestants. The steps were a change in the course that caught many off guard.

“I think it was good to watch everybody else and kind of see what they were doing,” Brown-Johnson said. “This year kind of surprised everybody, because they changed up the first obstacle. They have five pods in the water and the elevation changes as you ran across them and they got smaller and smaller. They all wobbled just a little bit. You had to get your foot on it just right on each one. Then you have to jump onto a rope and swing to the platform in front of you.”

The second obstacle, “walk the plank,” might’ve been just as challenging. Contestants had to climb up a short ladder on top of a board and as the board dipped toward the pool below, contestants had to jump across to a bar on the other side of the plank.

The “Ag Ninja” fell victim, just like many of his competitors.

“You’re climbing up and you can’t even see the bar. As it was dipping down, I went for the bar and it kind of felt like I jumped a little too soon, but when I grabbed that bar it started to slide down, I just didn’t have my hand around it well enough,” he said. “I flipped and fell in the water.”

Although Brown-Johnson hoped to make it out of the first couple obstacles, he still had a great experience being in the competition.

Brown-Johnson put in a lot of work just getting noticed for the competition. He made numerous videos in order to highlight his abilities as an athlete after family and friends urged him to apply for the show last year.

The “Ag Ninja” participates in various competitions such as Tough Mudder, Spartan events 24/7 endurance and other CrossFit-like activities. Since he was 18, Brown-Johnson has had a consistent workout routine, so physically he was ready.

His videos got some feedback and a month later, he was on the phone with a top producer of the show talking about going on “American Ninja Warrior.” Apparently, his physical prowess fit their idea, but his background, especially as a farmer stuck out to them.

Brown-Johnson works in ag services, real estate, he and his grandfather own a pistachio farm and he is also a volunteer firefighter for Madera County.

“The video I sent in involved everything I do, but the producers really liked that I was really into farming and that I do almond shaking, so they kind of just put farmer as my occupation,” the Ag Ninja said.

Before his trip down to Universal Studios, Brown-Johnson trained with a man in Clovis who had been on the show before and took the trip to Los Angeles with a Fresno State student who also competed.

He said that the community of people he met along the way was a great part of the whole journey through the process of getting onto American Ninja Warrior and hopes to make it back next year.

“It was such a wonderful experience to be there. It was a great challenge and I hope I have a little more redemption next year and make it a little further than the second obstacle,” he said.

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