Steve Donnelly, who was born and raised in Halifax, recently competed in Season 14 of American Ninja Warrior, advancing to the semi-finals round. The episode featuring Donnelly aired on June 14. The date for the semi-finals’ episode is ill yet to be announced.
Donnelly lives in Franklin with his wife Carolyn and their three children aged 7, 4, and 16 months. Three years ago, he decided to take his child to a class at Strive Ninja Fitness in Franklin. He said that while there he became intrigued with the obstacles and decided to sign up for a class. Donnelly described his first competition at the gym as “an absolute blast.”
Growing up in Halifax, Donnelly dabbled in sports of all kinds playing baseball, basketball, and football. While attending Wentworth Institute of Technology he played rugby, lacrosse, and even tried his hand at pickup hockey. Donnelly, who attended Sacred Heart High School, said that Ninja Warrior classes were a natural fit for his competitive personality.
Donnelly said that as he became more and more ingrained in the community, “there was always this desire to chase what I’ll call the Superbowl of American Ninja Warrior.” A fan of the show for a decade, Donnelly said that everyone equates the show with the sport. He applied two years ago but was not selected. The application process consists of a questionnaire about your athletic history, life, etc. as well as a short video showcasing your skills and stating why you want to be the next American Ninja Warrior.
Last year, Donnelly ran a qualifying round in 2021 in Tacoma, Washington but failed to progress further. He called it “an incredible experience” but said that he wasn’t fully prepared for the additional challenges beyond the athletic ones. “It’s really like drinking through a fire hose, there’s cameras, lights, pressure, excitement… I underestimated the mental aspect of what it would be like once I actually did get the call for the show.” He continued, “going into this season my main focus was going into it mentally prepared.”
At 33 years old, Donnelly is largely competing against people a decade or more younger than him in the 15–39-year-old division. While physically the workouts might take more out of him than his competitors, his age has served him in other areas. “I think there is definitely a benefit to having more experience in life in general and being able to kind of understand my emotions a little bit more and kind of control excitement levels and not get as worked up in certain situations,” he explained.
Donnelly said that the training has been vigorous landing him in the gym multiple days per week for several hours each session. He credits his wife for supporting him through the process. “Without my wife, none of this would have been possible. We have three very young children, even dating back to last year when I flew out to Tacoma less than four weeks after the baby was born; she has been my absolute rock through this all. She has been my number one supporter, taking care of all three children every single night, at least two nights a week. I come home, eat dinner, and then I’m off driving somewhere to go train; even during the taping of the show as well,” Donnelly explained.
Donnelly, who is an electrical engineer, said, “My work has been phenomenal.” Donnelly, who works for Eaton, said they have supported his need for time off and have enjoyed seeing his journey on the show.
The first stage for a competitor in American Ninja Warrior is the city qualifying round, followed by the city finals, and then finally the finals in Las Vegas. The finals consist of a four-stage course, with the fourth one being a rope climb of nearly 100 feet. A $1,000,000 prize awaits the victor. Viewers will have to tune in in a few weeks to see how Donnelly fares.