Ben Shephard: Ninja Warrior is ‘way, way tougher’ than Gladiators

What can viewers expect when they tune into Ninja Warrior UK?
“It’s essentially an epic assault course – the toughest in the world! It was originally a Japanese format, and there are versions all over the world. Myself, sport pundit Chris Kamara and Rochelle Hume from The Saturdays, are really excited to host the UK version.”

What are competitors playing for?
“There’s no cash prize, it’s all for the honour of winning. Over 5000 people applied, but only 250 were selected because you have to be really fit to take part. In almost 20 years of the Japanese version only three people have ever completed it. In America it took four seasons before anyone got to the end. When I say this is tough, take what you imagine tough to be and multiply it by 100. We might not even get a winner!”

What makes Ninja Warrior different to Total Wipeout or Gladiators?
“They’re all epic assault courses, with fun elements, but when people see Ninja Warrior, they’ll understand! Wipeout had a funny slapstick nature. Anyone could rock up and give it a go, no matter how fit they were. But this is too dangerous for that. As for Gladiators, we’ve had actual gladiators apply for this. I can’t tell you who but it’ll be great fun to see!”

Who else has applied to compete? 

“We have a real array of people including gymnasts, bobsledders, midwives, carers and a wedding singer. Our oldest contestant is a 67-year-old female maths teacher. We’ve even got an international model! Ninja Warrior is a real celebration of endeavour and fitness. These people train their socks off to get to this point, and it might all just go wrong on the first obstacle!”

Is it dangerous?
Potentially. Competitors put their bodies through hardcore stresses. Each obstacle has water underneath it, so if they drop hopefully it will break their fall. There’s no safety net or trial run. You can train your heart out but one little mistake could see you fall off. And you can’t go back and do it again. And you have to wait a whole year before you can come back! It would be incredible if we had a UK ninja, but I’d be very surprised if we do.”

Who would you like to see in a celebrity version?
“Chris Kamara would like to see Jeff Stelling; it’s his mission to get him on. Rochelle reckons Mo Farah would be amazing. I think former Olympian Louise Hazel, who was on The Jump, would love it. Gordon Ramsey would be good – he’d get really competitive. Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness would be great as well!”

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