1. Arts & Entertainment

Look for Oldsmar's Reko Rivera on 'American Ninja Warrior' and YouTube

Reko Rivera of Oldsmar will compete in the Atlanta qualifier of American Ninja Warrior. He also went viral in a YouTube video of him doing the Ninja course in a dinosaur costume. Photo from NBC.
Published Jun. 7, 2016

Those watching American Ninja Warrior this week will see one of Tampa Bay's own swinging, leaping and climbing an obstacle course in hopes of achieving glory.

Reko Rivera of Oldsmar will be among those contending for a spot in the Atlanta qualifier, airing at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NBC. It marks his fifth season competing on the show, creating viral videos utilizing his Ninja Warrior skills in his free time.

Rivera, 30, said he was a fan of the original Japanese show Sasuke, and when he learned about the American version, decided to submit a video. He first competed in the show's fourth season in 2012.

"The first season was pretty intimidating when you get out there — the crowds, the lights, the audience, a hundred competitors watching you, your moves," Rivera said.

On the show, competitors in various cities try to complete an obstacle course in hopes of advancing to the final challenge — a four-stage course called Mount Midoriyama. To date, only two people have beaten the course, with only one winning the $1 million prize.

The show's seventh season last year was the closest he has gotten to reaching the finals in Las Vegas. In the Orlando qualifier, he finished in 16th place, putting him one spot away from the top 15, who advance to the finals in Las Vegas.

"Every season so far, I've increased my spot," Rivera said. "I was like the 30th, the 25th, then 16th, and then I'll have to see this year."

Last year, Rivera was also the man behind the dinosaur suit in a video called "American Ninja-Saurus" that went viral. In the video made by St. Petersburg's Brentwood Photography, he swings on bars, scales a rock wall and climbs a rope while contending with the tiny arms of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

He said he got the idea after seeing a friend who owned the outfit posting his own videos while wearing it.

"I was immediately like, 'I should do a Ninja Warrior in it,'" Rivera said.

The video currently has more than a million views on YouTube. Based on its popularity, Rivera appeared in a sequel called "Jurassic Parkour," which has almost a million YouTube views of its own.

The videos were filmed at Palmetto's LIVE Training Center and Longwood's Urban Ninja Parkour. Rivera said in order to train for the unique challenge of the show, he does a plethora of exercises including cross-training, calisthenics, rock-climbing and parkour, and has trained at 45 gyms in the country in the past four years.

"This year, I'm definitely hoping to make it to Vegas, the final spot," Rivera said. "It's a long time coming. We'll see what happens."


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