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No one shined brighter at the American Ninja Warrior Houston City Finals than local favorite Sam Sann. The 5’8″ 48-year-old conquered a devilishly-hard course that frustrated numerous competitors half his age.

With completion of the course, Sann — who looks like a 70s kung-fu flick star come to life — punched his ticket to a third consecutive ANW Vegas Finals.


Sann was born in Cambodia and at a young age lost his mother and five of six siblings to the totalitarian regime of the Khmer Rouge. He managed to survive several years in a labor camp by supplementing his meager rations with rats, snakes, and crickets. When he was 13 years old, Sann, his sister and father were brought by the Red Cross to Houston, Texas.

In Houston, Sann worked for a time at Shipley Do-Nuts, before deciding to try his luck as a hair dresser. Financed through a loan from his previous employer, he eventually was running his own successful salon in a strip mall. Later, while recovering from a knee injury, Sann fashioned an adjoining adult workout space inspired by the obstacles on ANW.

Buoyed by training at his own facility, Sann, himself, started competing on ANW a couple years ago. In 2013 and ’14, he advanced to the National Finals in Las Vegas after putting in tenacious performances at the City Finals. In Vegas, Sann was ultimately felled both times by the Giant Cycle. Look for a different result this year after his brilliant run in Houston.


Sann’s Iron Sports gym has become the de facto training ground for ninja wannabes in Texas — seven of the competitors at the Houston Finals trained there. Obstacle racing legends Kacy Catanzaro and boyfriend Brent Steffensen both relocated to Houston to teach and train at the ever-evolving facilty.