Local Flight Attendant Competes On National TV Show
Oahu-based Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant Grantlyn McCartney has a chance to win $1 million — if he can make his way through the gauntlet that is American Ninja Warrior. As a contestant on NBC’s sports competition show, McCartney has successfully completed two rounds — a qualifying round and then the regional finals in Venice Beach — and now is headed into the national finals in Las Vegas.
Already, the competition has been no easy feat. To start with, the show receives video submissions from thousands of hopefuls.
Then, each regional round is comprised of a slew of obstacles that challenge balance, strength, agility and endurance, each seemingly more impossible than the last. One obstacle, for instance, requires participants to maneuver to the top of several empty ladder rungs by hoisting themselves up with a metal bar.
“It gets pretty nuts — I didn’t realize how intense it was,” McCartney says.
Now, for the national finals, McCartney and the other competitors will face four stages with new obstacles — swinging from ropes, lifting 100-pound walls and jumping huge gaps.
This is the show’s seventh season, and in the entirety of its run, no one has ever won the grand prize. In fact, no one has ever even made it to the final stage of the nationals.
To prepare, McCartney has assigned himself a rigorous daily training regiment, which includes exercising at his neighborhood park, rock climbing at Volcanic Climbing & Fitness (which was featured in Metro July 29 and you can read more about it here) and working out in the home gym he built in his carport.
“It’s amazing the levels that people can push themselves to,” McCartney says. “You can challenge yourself in so many ways.”
McCartney has been a lifelong fan of the show — he grew up watching the original Japanese version that it’s based on.
“I would get super hyped, and think, ‘I could do that,'” he recalls.
Last year, both his mother and grandmother died within three months of one another — and grieving them made him want to pursue his childhood ambition.
“It was a hard last year, but it did kind of light a fire to do some of the things that I have always wanted to do,” he explains.
“My original goal was just to get on the show — I just wanted to see if I could do it,” McCartney says. “But I told my mom and my grandma that this is something I wanted to do and they cheered me on … I know that they’re not there in the stands, but they will be watching — they’ve probably got the best view from where they’re at right now.”
American Ninja Warrior, McCartney explains, has been something of a catharsis for him: “Having something to get excited about, to train for, to be a part of, to strive for new goals and push myself harder than before, that gave me hope. And that hope in something brought me out of the saddest time of my life.”
Originally from Tennessee, McCartney attended college in state. But when he couldn’t afford to study abroad his senior year, he opted for a stint at University of Hawaii at Manoa on a student-exchange program. While he was here, he entered local skateboarding contestants — and 808 Skate approached him about a sponsorship. The shop suggested that when he graduated college, he should come back to the Islands and continue riding for them. For McCartney, who also is an avid surfer, it was a no-brainer.
As a flight attendant for the past couple of years, he has been taking full advantage of the travel perks. He’s been running with the bulls in Spain, surfing in Indonesia, and is building a skatepark for a community in India with one of his flight attendant friends.
For McCartney, while winning American Ninja Warrior would of course be nice, his goal is a little larger than that: “I want people to know that if you lose someone or you are struggling through something, you’ve got to have hope — because it will change everything. It can be something silly … but just having things to be hopeful about and get excited about gave me a purpose and reason to get moving and going.
“I just remind people that if something is really hard, it’s just a season in life,” McCartney continues. “Sometimes you just have to know that life has seasons and even if you’re in a bad one, that doesn’t mean that spring and summer aren’t coming around, that something good isn’t coming next.”
American Ninja Warrior airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC. The finals will air in the next four or five weeks, with the date to be determined. You also can catch McCartney’s two previous runs on nbc.com.