Local teen beats men in 'American Ninja Warrior'
He's a confident young man, and well-conditioned and trained, but Troutdale's Caiden Madzelan admitted to being every bit a teenager when faced with competing against men on "American Ninja Warrior."
Besides technique mistakes, Madzelan felt "intimidated" while competing in the national finals of the obstacle course racing competition in Las Vegas.
"Being (not) mentally strong is one of my biggest weaknesses … it was a big factor," Madzelan, 16 and a Reynolds High School junior. "I'd be lying if I say it wasn't intimidating to me. It intimidated me."
He looks to be like the "Black Mamba," the late basketball star Kobe Bryant, and exhibit the "Mamba Mentality" moving forward.
Well, Madzelan has been pretty tough on himself, because he competed really well in the three rounds of "American Ninja Warrior" held earlier this year and shown on KGW (8). He made it to Vegas, and performed better than anybody in the Pacific Northwest — a big accomplishment, considering teenagers competed against adults for the first time on "American Ninja Warrior"
Madzelan completed his assigned course in stage one, but a mistake during the skyhook portion of the course, which took four attempts to complete, led him to pushing the finish buzzer too late to advance — he "timed out." His race was shown on KGW (8) on Monday, Aug. 30, and Madzelan had about 25 friends at his Troutdale house for a watch party. He actually competed in Vegas in May, three months earlier, and had to keep the results secret until the airing of the show.
"The best part of the show was being able to promote it (with friends) and to see the true reactions," he said. "To see the support from friends — 'You got it next season' — it means a lot to have a great group of friends."
Madzelan said it has bothered him for the past three months that he made one big mistake and had other stumbles on the Vegas course. He's a dedicated obstacle racer, training virtually every day. He takes it really seriously.
"I think about it every night," he said of the skyhook mistake. "When I trained with (fellow racer) Michael Larlee, I did it every single time." He tried to complete the skyhook with a straight arm and "I should have had my arms bent a little bit more."
He moved from the skyhook to the cargo net, where he made his way to the top, but when he hit the buzzer the fireworks didn't go off, telling him it was too late.
"I looked at the ('ANW') cameraman and said, 'I'll get it next year, I'll be back,'" Madzelan said. "It was not my day on that obstacle. In the moment with the adrenaline and cameras on me, my technique failed me."
He finished sixth in the first round of "ANW" competition in Tacoma, Washington, and then 12th in Los Angeles, high enough to advance to the national finals.
It was "incredible" for Madzelan to be able to compete against some of his idols, like Adam Rayl and Sean Bryan. He would consider it a good season, making it to the national finals at then-15 years old. "Thinking about that is crazy, but I know I'm only going to get better," he said.
Madzelan is running on the Reynolds High cross country team while continuing to train for obstacle course racing. If he gets another invitation to compete in "American Ninja Warrior" in 2022, he'll be skipping the high school track and field season.
"My family and I firmly believe, based on how I did on 'American Ninja Warrior' this year, I'll most likely be invited back," he said.
"I've told a lot of people that I'm only 16 years old and I got a lot to learn, and I've gone through ups and downs, but I'm striving to be a better version of myself than the day before. … I would say that so many athletes in Las Vegas were capable of winning, but there was luck involved, the stars have to align, you have to put on a perfect performance when they tell you to do it."
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