STRONGMAN SLIPS, BUT HE’S NOT OUT
By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Anthony Eardley is not one and done.
That was the Oneontan’s message after his run on “American Ninja Warrior” ended Monday night, Aug. 10, when he missed making it to the Top 13, the players who now go on compete in Las Vegas.
But Oneonta’s ninja is far from out. He will submit his name to ANW again in January to compete in the show’s next season. And given his lengthy screen time on Monday night’s episode, chances are very high Eardley will be on the show in 2020.
“I was completely accomplished,” Eardley said about his ANW performance in the Baltimore City Finals. “I looked calm, focused, and engaged – even though on the inside, I was freaking out.”
His comments came after watching himself do the course for the first time at Foothills, along with about 50 family members and friends. As they did with the July 1 ANW episode, which showed the first round of Baltimore City contestants, Eardley and his family invited the public to watch this episode on Foothills’ big screen in real time.
But unlike the July 1 episode, which featured Eardley fleetingly, the Aug. 12 one opened with him walking onto stage in his welder’s helmet, then doing a backflip in it.
“It didn’t fall off!” Eardley said triumphantly as he watched.
ANW then cut to his personal story, flashing “Oneonta, New York” in big letters across a scenic picture of the city, showing Eardley welding underwater in his helmet and protective gear, and then in his parents’ house with his family. At that moment, ANW’s worldwide audience learned Eardley was more than a charismatic athlete.
“My parents adopted me” Eardley said to the camera, his eyes welling up. “The selflessness to want to choose another life and to say, ‘That’s mine,’ and to adopt not (just) me…there’s six of us.”
“My mom and dad have always told me to be my very best, and this course challenges you to be your very best,” Eardley continued, tears streaming down his face. “And I will do that every day for them.”
As the scene played on the Foothills’ screen, Eardley’s mother Angela teared up, too.
“I didn’t know that he said that,” she said. “That was the first time I heard it.”
ANW then showed Eardley’s course run. He moved effortlessly through the first half, even on obstacles that had tripped him up in the previous course. Between his conquered sets, Eardley paused frequently – too frequently, as it turned out — to bust moves and feed off of the cheering crowd, especially when he spotted a sign, waved by a fan, that read, “It’s never too late to be Eardley.”
At the course’s midpoint, he skipped up the 14-foot wall as if it were nothing and saluted “ANW’s” hosts, Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila.
“This rookie has already exceeded expectations,” Gbajabiamila exclaimed. “How far will he go?”
Everyone learned the answer a minute later. Eardley’s next set was the Angry Birds platform, named and designed to promote the upcoming “Angry Birds 2” movie. It consisted of eight “oddly shaped,” rotating objects placed at different angles and with handgrips placed differently on each one.
Eardley got through six, then missed the “blind catch” on the seventh, falling into the water below.
None of the other contestants made it through the Angry Birds set either. It then came down to the fastest times and Eardley came in 16th place.
“I think I will dance less next time,” Eardley said.
And he has other ninja courses to compete in before ANW in 2020. Eardley will compete in the Florida Ninja League on Aug. 24 and in the Ultimate Backyard Warrior competition on Labor Day Weekend.
But Eardley savored every minute of his time on “ANW” this year.
“I lived my dream,” he said. “This is exactly where I want to be.”