Ninja Warrior winner’s big secret
A golf-mad, geeky redhead barely out of his teens who weighs in at a slight 68kgs has become the unlikely first-ever winner of Australian Ninja Warrior.
While Charlie Robbins didn't make it up the course's fabled Mount Midoriyama, he was the furthest and fastest to compete in Monday night's second grand final, taking home a tidy $100,000 in the process.
$300,000 was still up for grabs if one of the ninjas finished the course but in lieu of that $100,000 would be given to whoever made it furthest fastest.
In a nail biting finish, four out of the five competitors who'd made it to the final stage of the grand final had fallen at the exact same obstacle - Robbins, Josh O'Sullivan, Bryson Klein and Daniel Mason. This meant their speed became the deciding factor in picking a winner. Robbins had reached the 'floating doors' obstacle first, so he took home the $100k.
Not since the Titanic, has a floating door claimed so many victims #NinjaWarriorAU— Funny Not Funny (@FunnyNotFunny13) July 29, 2019
Earlier, Ninja favourite Ashlin Herbert provided the night's biggest shock, falling surprising early during the first stage of the grand final.
Herbert slipped from the 'Salmon Ladder' obstacle, but recovered without falling in the pool - but his fall was an automatic disqualification. In awkward scenes, Herbert continued along the course, ignoring his disqualification until presenter Freddie Flintoff pleaded with him to stop.
Chatting to news.com.au after his win, the softly-spoken 20-year-old said he wasn't too sure what to do with the money, beyond a planned European holiday starting this weekend.
Robbins was the true surprise package of Ninja Warrior season three - while other competitors were introduced with awe-inspiring footage showing their tireless hours spent training, Robbins' intro instead showed him golfing with a group of elderly friends, including his 71-year-old grandfather Taffy.
All those Ninja skills, just from golfing? Not quite.
You can’t seriously tell me Charlie is this fit just by playing golf? #NinjaWarriorAU— Robyn Thomas (@treverp79) July 29, 2019
"I've been doing gymnastics since I was four years old, and I started training on ninja-specific obstacles about two, two-and-a-half years ago. When I was growing up, I played pretty much every sport - footy, cricket - but I ended up sticking with golf and gymnastics," Robbins told news.com.au.
Indeed, Robbins' Instagram reveals golfing with grandad is but one part of the keen athlete's sporting regimen:
But hoping to stand out in the crowd, Robbins wore his golfing outfit to his initial audition for the show - and stuck with it once he got in.
It was a canny way to defy expectations - viewers expect great things of shirtless musclebound contestants like Jack Wilson or Ryan Solomon, whereas a goofy guy in a golfer's flat cap is sure to be underestimated.
"It was pretty funny talking to people - everyone said, 'Oh we thought you were going to do terribly and fall off on the first obstacle, but you absolutely smashed it!'," he said.
Robbins is one of several "underdog" contestants to do remarkably well in a season that could just as easily have been titled Australian Ninja Warrior: Revenge of the Nerds. He said his success was proof having an Instagram influencer's rippling physique didn't automatically translate to success on the show.
"I think being fairly lightweight is an advantage - and having a gymnastics background helps heaps. I don't think putting on as much muscle as you can is necessarily going to help you," he said.
"Experience on the course definitely helps too; stepping up on the heats I was shaking because I was so nervous. At the semis I felt so much more comfortable and by the grand finals I felt more comfortable again."
Luck surely plays a part in every run too - just look at the show's most successful female contestant Olivia Vivian, on track for a place in the grand final before one poorly-timed jump on a trampoline saw her crash out of the competition. Robbins admitted he'd come very close to meeting a similar fate.
"One millimetre to the wrong side of the rolling log or the tuning forks and you're in the water. In stage one of the grand final, I pretty much slipped off the propeller (obstacle), but somehow the rope ended up in my hand. I was like 'What just happened?' I was shocked. That's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me."
And while Ninja Warrior obstacles are designed to test human limits, Robbins revealed the biggest challenge actually happened off the course. He admits he "wasn't prepared" for the interminable waiting that comes with making television. His first day of shooting started at 7.39am with a photo shoot and interview.
"Then I was sitting in the city all day until it was time to head to the course. They take you through the safety briefing - and then you're just sitting around for hours and hours and hours. That was probably the biggest shock for me, and it wasn't much fun just sitting there doing nothing," he said.
Robbins finally ran the course at around 1.30am, some 16 hours after his day had started.
"It was really, really hard and I definitely wasn't prepared for it. You don't know when you're (running) - they'll come in and grab five people at a time. Each time you go 'This could be me, better get excited!' And then it's not you.
"I did that about 20 times over. It's pretty exhausting."