Kacy Catanzaro is a super star competitor who inspired generations of future female athletes when she became the first woman to finish the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course and qualify for the final — for which she admits she trained hard, for two years. And while anyone with an interest in the show already knows about Catanzaro’s athletic abilities, there are a lot of of other interesting things about her life that most people probably didn’t know. Here’s what Catanzaro’s life is like, when she’s not competing on television.
She was a gymnast
Catanzaro had great training to prepare her for becoming a Warrior. She told Esquire magazine that she started gymnastics when she was just four or five years old and dropped everything else to pursue the sport. In her college years, Catanzaro went on to join the Division I gymnastics team at Towson University (which is located just north of Baltimore).
She told ESPN, “It was one of the best times of my life.” After leaving college she needed a new goal, and she found this in American Ninja Warrior. Catanzaro believes that her previous training as a gymnast helped her to succeed. She said, “When you get to the competition, most people don’t know how their body will react to the pressure. But I do. I’ve competed literally hundreds of times in gymnastics and trained how to do what I need to do at just the right time.”
She’s a Miley Cyrus fan
Most of us have a few tracks that motivate us, and it turns out that Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” is on Catanzaro’s playlist. During a 2014 interview with Esquire, she confessed to being a fan of the Cyrus tune, and not just because it’s a song about kicking butt.
“It’s like, ‘Endure the journey that you take to reach your top moment. You might not get there right now but when you do, remember what you did to get there,'” she said, adding that it gets her pumped up, but also keeps her humble.
She’s an animal lover
Catanzaro has a lot of love for animals, but there was one in particular who stole her heart — her beloved dog, Mr. Mogley. Mr. Mogley was a long-haired Jack Russell who was Catanzaro’s baby and best friend, and she often took to social media to declare her love for him.
However, in 2017, she revealed that he had died, but she planned to honor his memory by helping other animals, joining forces with the national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society to do so. Together, Catanzaro and the organization created t-shirts with Mr. Mogley’s likeness, and 100 percent of all proceeds from this shirt went towards helping the organization and its projects.
Her ex-boyfriend got her a job
Catanzaro credits a lot of her success to her now ex-boyfriend and former coach, Brent Steffensen. When the two were still just exchanging training and healthy eating tips, Steffensen was offered a job in San Antonio to test out Alpha Warrior‘s obstacle course, and he asked the bosses if they needed a woman to test it out too. He suggested Catanzaro, and the pair began working together — and, that’s how their romance first started.
She told Esquire magazine in 2014, “He moved from L.A. and I moved from New Jersey. We met in Texas and then about two months later we started dating. That was almost a year and a half ago, February 2013.”
She’s shorter than you think
This may seem like an obvious point, having seen Catanzaro on television, but she often speaks about her height (she’s only five feet tall) and how it has been a disadvantage to her. In a 2015 interview with Esquire, she discussed how much harder it had been for her to complete on American Ninja Warrior because of her size.
She said, “Being so short is definitely a disadvantage. In Dallas, there was part of the course where the guys could swing and with one arm reach the next obstacle. I had to wind up, swing, and actually let go and catch the next one with both hands. My body was like mush at the end.”
Nothing motivates her like screaming fans
Catanzaro really appreciates all the support that she receives from fans, and she told American Ninja Warrior Nation in August 2017, that when she hears her fans cheering she feels even more motivated.
“I can’t even describe it. It kind of goes both ways,” she said. “They were screaming for me and I was like ‘Oh gosh, I need to do this for them. They’re screaming. They want me to do it. I want to do it. I want to prove it to them.'”
She always tries to be positive
Perhaps one of the greatest things about Catanzaro is that she always tries to look on the bright side of everything, and her social media is a treasure trove of motivational messages. She often shares words of encouragement and positivity, as well as funny pictures of herself doing silly and random things. In general, her outlook on life is one that is inspirational, and is yet another reason as to why she’s a fantastic role model for young women.
She’s all about girl power
Not long after conquering the American Ninja Warrior course in 2014, Catanzaro gave an interview to Vulture about the experience. In it, she revealed that while she wanted to push her own boundaries and see what she could achieve physically, she also wanted inspire other women to do the same.
She said, “I want to do these things to prove to myself, but like I’ve said before, I also wanted to make these big steps for everyone, for all the women out there and for everybody else that thinks that they can’t do something or that they have an excuse.”
She’s very patriotic
Catanzaro has a lot of love and respect for those who serve in the United States military — her current boyfriend, Dave Reid, is one of them — and she has previously taken to Instagram to praise veterans.
In a lengthy Instagram post, she wrote about the importance of Memorial Day and how we should be grateful “for the men and women who gave it all and have died while serving in this country’s armed forces.” She also spoke about all the men and women currently serving in the forces and how, from the bottom of her heart, she wanted to thank them “for all that you have given. The words never seem like enough, you deserve the greatest of thanks.”
Catanzaro has also praised Reid, who seven years ago was injured in Afghanistan by stepping through a doorway that was rigged with an IED.
She’s obsessed with Vikings
The popular TV show Vikings is one of Catanzaro’s favorite, and she’s not afraid to admit that she’s completely “obsessed” with it. She previously took to Instagram in 2016 to share a photo of the character Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Australian actor Travis Fimmel, and gushed about how excited she was for the fifth season of the series to start. Luckily for Catanzaro, the show was renewed for a sixth season, so she’ll have plenty of episodes to binge-watch in the future.
She thinks WWE is the opportunity of a lifetime
In 2014, the world fell in love with Catanzaro thanks to her achievements on American Ninja Warrior. However, in 2017, the Warped Wall got the better of her, ultimately leading to her disqualification and her retirement from the competition, but also spurred her transition into wresting.
World Wrestling Entertainment announced that Catanzaro was joining the company during a taping for the Mae Young Classic, in which she and fellow newcomer Shadia Bseiso were filmed watching the tournament. According to Bleacher Report, the announcement came eight months after Catanzaro was reportedly training at the WWE Performance Center in January 2017.
Catanzaro spoke to USA Today in August 2017 about how she used to watch wrestling as a kid, and how she was excited to “take on a new challenge” with WWE. And after multiple offers to join WWE, she was finally ready to accept. She said, “For a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be brought to me a handful of times — I knew that it was rare, and I was getting older. I want to be somewhere where I can make the biggest impact I can.”