A ninja in Cleveland: 10-year-old athlete makes it to American Ninja Warrior Junior finals

Nathanael Honvou, 10, likes breaking records. He started running when he was five years old and in 2015 was the fastest six-year-old to run the five-mile Johnnycake Jog in Painesville. He is attempting to break a pogo sticking record. And Honvou is the youngest kid to successfully climb the 14-foot warped wall in his Lyndhurst gym.

So, it’s no wonder that Honvou, earned the nickname “Record Breaker” this year while competing in the second season of American Ninja Warrior Junior, which airs on the Universal Kids channel.

<span class="content-image-text">Nathanael Honvou competing in age group 9-10 on American Ninja Warrior Junior - Season 2.</span>Nathanael Honvou competing in age group 9-10 on American Ninja Warrior Junior - Season 2.Honvou, whose Ninja name on the show is Nutin—a Middle African name meaning “extraordinary” has made it to the finals and will compete for the win and title of American Ninja Warrior Junior 2020 this Friday, June 12.

A student at Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland Heights, Honvou first fell in love with American Ninja Warrior when the adult version of the extreme obstacle course competition filmed in downtown Cleveland in 2017.

Honvou, who competes in obstacle courses all over the country, attended fan fest at the American Ninja Warrior taping and immediately wanted to audition for the junior version. But he was too young for the first season.

But this season, Honvou is one of four finalists in the nine- and 10-year-old division. Out of 12,000 applications, he was one of 144 to get on the show.

“I was surprised because there are so many good kids that apply,” says Honvou’s mother, Aria, who says he is the youngest on the show but, at 4’7”, he is also the tallest in his division. “We got a call right away, so it’s pretty fun.”

Honvou and Aria flew out to Los Angles last July to film the show, and they both say it’s been difficult to keep the outcome under wraps for the last 11 months.

It’s a new course every competition on American Ninja Warrior Junior, says Honvou, but he’s up to the challenge. “It’s fun,” he says. He does say that the Flying Squirrel obstacle—where he must use a trampoline to launch onto a series of hanging handles that he must maneuver before navigating a rope ladder—is one of his favorites.

"It’s more mental related than physical," explains Honvou. "The part that is mental is if you fall, you fall into water. So, it’s scary.”

Honvou has made friends with some of his competition, in particular with Owen, who is also in Honvou’s category and made it to the finals. “They became fast friends on set and ended up having to run against each other,” says Aria.

Both mother and son say they are excited to see the edited, televised finale on Friday at 6 p.m. Check local listings for the Universal Kids channel or watch it through NBC.com.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.