Brian “The Burkinator” Burk, 20, has his eyes on the prize. He returns during the July 15 episode fo American Ninja Warrior to compete in the Los Angeles City finals. “To stand up at the start line at the qualifiers was just a very surreal experience,” Brian says in our EXCLUSIVE preview. “It was unbelievable that I actually got to compete on a real course.” Brian has high-functioning autism and is an engineering student in Pasadena, California. “You don’t expect an autistic child to be able to reach out to a crowd,” Brian’s mom, Pamela, said about the qualifiers. “He has never done that and has never interacted with people. That’s the first time he’s ever done that.”
Brian is one of 12 rookies in the city finals. “I worked very hard to get here and I believe I do have what it takes to get to Vegas,” he says. He starts out on the course with a determined focus. He doesn’t hold back as he forges ahead on the course. His family and friends are cheering him on. He takes on each of the obstacles with ease. We don’t see whether or not he completes the course but it’s almost a sure thing.
During the July 15 episode, competitors will face up to 10 daunting obstacles, including the new Leaps of Faith. In this season’s twist to the city finals rounds, the two fastest finishers take on the new Power Tower for a chance to win a safety pass. The safety pass will give the ninja a second chance on the course if he/she falls on stage 1 or 2 at the National Finals in Las Vegas.
Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila host American Ninja Warrior and Zuri Hall is the show’s sideline reporter. The new season of American Ninja Warrior airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC.