Abraham Lincoln once said, "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." And while this advice wouldn't literally work on American Ninja Warrior, this is really more of a metaphor for determination. Contestants on American Ninja Warrior definitely need determination, as well as physical strength. Jessie Graff has both of those things, and more.
Not only is she an accomplished stunt woman, but she's trained in five styles of martial arts and was the first woman to complete Stage Two of American Ninja Warrior: USA vs The World. She made her triumphant return to the show on Episode 2 of Season 14. Why did she take a break? What happened to Jessie Graff?
What happened to Jessie Graff on 'American Ninja Warrior'?
Even warriors can get hurt, which is sadly what happened to Jessie Graff while filming the Season 12 finale in July 2020. According to The Frederick News-Post, by November of that same year she had undergone three surgeries on one shoulder. Her plan that day was to complete the 10-obstacle course, something she had yet to do.
Things started off great as Jessie sailed through the Shrinking Steps, making her way towards the Spring Forward. Once she got through that, it was over to the Falling Shelves where Jessie took a moment to herself. Unfortunately, as she grabbed the handles on the first transfer, Jessie's right hand slipped causing her to plummet into pool below. It was obvious something was wrong with her shoulders as she exited the pool area.
After years of stunt work and competition training, Jessie's shoulders were already pushing their limits. Before filming the Season 12 finale, Jessie "had her shoulders injected with stem cells to address persistent problems in that area," reported The Frederick News-Post. Believe it or not, she was already injured going into the Season 12 finale.
Jessie Graff was competing with an injury during the Season 12 finale.
Beyond the injury to her shoulder, Jessie had knee surgery to address a torn ACL she was competing with during the Season 12 finale, per The Frederick News-Post. At the time, she was unaware of the injury. "They have a special episode that was shot between qualifiers and semifinals, so if you were to go back and watch the semifinals and the competition [Friday night], you’ll see that my knee is taped," Jessie told the outlet. She heard her knee pop after landing off one of the obstacles, but felt no pain at the time.
She took several months and Season 13 off to recuperate. During that time Jessie busied herself by learning sign language and worked towards a certification in nutrition. She was confident she would return to American Ninja Warrior as soon as she was able.
"I’m just seeing this as an incredible opportunity. I saw that it was time to take a break and make some changes and shifts in my life. Obviously, my body needed the break."
On June 13, 2022, Jessie posted an update on Instagram about returning for Season 14. "I’m super nervous because I haven’t been able to train on obstacles in over 4 months," she wrote. "Ever since I got strong and healthy enough to really train hard, I’ve been crazy busy with stunt work, and I’m so grateful for that. But tonight, I’ll be relying on some base strength and instincts to make it as far as I can."
Here's hoping Jessie's mind and body made through unscathed.