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Tampa Bay family competes for $1 million ‘American Ninja Warrior’ prize

They can be seen racing at 8 p.m. on Monday on NBC.
 
From left, Caleb Bergstrom, Ashley Bergstrom, David Bergstrom-Wright and Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright at the Jungle Gym in Pinellas Park. The four will be featured on a two-hour special of American Ninja Warrior on NBC on Monday.
From left, Caleb Bergstrom, Ashley Bergstrom, David Bergstrom-Wright and Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright at the Jungle Gym in Pinellas Park. The four will be featured on a two-hour special of American Ninja Warrior on NBC on Monday. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Aug. 12, 2023|Updated Aug. 13, 2023

PINELLAS PARK — It’s been said that the family that trains together, remains together.

The Ninja Family, as they are called on the “American Ninja Warrior” television series, say it is especially true for them.

Brother and sister Caleb Bergstrom and Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright and their spouses, Ashley Bergstrom and David Bergstrom-Wright, each competed on Season 15 of “American Ninja Warrior,” which has contestants race extreme obstacle courses for a $1 million grand prize.

Riches, the Pinellas County family said, were not enough to turn them against one another.

The public see if that is true when the four compete on the same semifinals episode, taped earlier this year in Los Angeles. It airs at 8 p.m. on Monday on NBC.

Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright runs up the warped wall while training at the Jungle Gym in Pinellas Park.
Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright runs up the warped wall while training at the Jungle Gym in Pinellas Park. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

The season began with 238 ninjas. Of those, the 96 men and 32 women with the best qualifying times for their genders moved on to four semifinals episodes.

The 48 male and 16 female winners of one-on-one races plus eight wild card contestants (top finishers who lost their head-to-head) then compete in the finals, where men and women are in the same bracket.

Season 15 was the first with one-on-one races. Previously, each round used best times.

The family members would not divulge whether they made the finals or raced one another, but Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright said, “We’re always very supportive. We cheer each other on.”

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They say the money wasn’t even enough to get them to root against Tampa Bay friends Vance Walker, DC Banks, Enzo Wilson and Emma Pereya, all of whom can be seen competing on that same semifinals episode.

The eight locals made up 16% of the semifinalists. Why is this area so dominant?

Some credit goes to the Bergstroms’ Jungle Gym.

The eight ninjas train at the Pinellas Park facility, which has members as young as 3 and as old as 60.

Ashley Bergstrom trains as David Bergstrom-Wright looks on.
Ashley Bergstrom trains as David Bergstrom-Wright looks on. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

The 15,000-foot Jungle Gym offers ninja training through obstacles that are similar to those seen on television, including a 15-foot steeply curved “warped wall” that a competitor runs up.

“To do this, it takes speed, strength and balance, but mostly dedication,” said Ashley Bergstrom. “But a lot of the people who first come here have no experience.”

Overall, said 24-year-old Caleb Bergstrom, around 30 gym members have competed on an “American Ninja Warrior” season, including his brother Danny and father Jason.

The Bergstrom family began as fans of the show that launched in 2009.

“We started building obstacles in our backyard,” Caleb Bergstrom said. “And we’d invite people over to try them. Sometimes we’d have 30 or 40 people.”

They entered ninja competitions held throughout the state. It was at one of those that Caleb and Ashley Bergstrom met.

David Bergstrom-Wright hangs from the warped wall while training at his family's Jungle Gym.
David Bergstrom-Wright hangs from the warped wall while training at his family's Jungle Gym. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

In 2017, the Bergstrom father became the first family member to compete on American Ninja Warrior.

“We then started wondering how we could make this into something bigger,” Caleb Bergstrom said. They opened the gym in 2019, which was also the year David and Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright and Caleb and Ashley Bergstrom first competed on American Ninja Warrior in Season 11 taped in Las Vegas.

That season was also when Caitlyn Bergstrom-Wright met her future husband, who was living in Texas at the time.

The siblings and their spouses returned for Season 12 and David Bergstrom-Wright again for Season 14.

They have yet to win it all, but if one did so in Season 15, they made a deal prior to the competition to ensure that no one walked away empty handed.

“Winner buys dinner,” laughed David Bergstrom-Wright. “It’s the least we could do with a million dollars.”