Polson couldn’t have been more of a favourite — the 196cm-tall West Australian had placed in the grand final in both seasons one and two and had finished first in his season three heat.
All he needed was a top-10 placement to make it to the grand final for a third season in a row.
But it wasn’t to be — incredibly, he crashed out before the warped wall and less than halfway through the course, missing a landing during the flying bar obstacle.
“That is a major shock in this competition. If anyone this season was supposed to get up Mt Midoriyama, it was this guy,” said host Rebecca Maddern as a dejected Polson climbed out of the pool.
Viewers had to wait until the episode’s end to see Polson’s girlfriend Olivia Vivian try her luck. She had one goal in mind — course completion — but the odds were against her, even as a 2018 grand finalist.
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No female contestant had even made it far enough to attempt the gruelling final obstacle of this year’s semi-finals, while plenty of male contestants who had tried their luck on the “invisible ladder” had fallen off midway.
Vivian approached the course methodically, taking short rest breaks and tackling each obstacle individually. The tactic worked — after five full minutes on the course, she’d made it to the foot of the invisible ladder.
All that was left was to pull herself up, inch by agonising inch, the eight metres of the “ladder” using nothing but a pair of rings.
She smashed it, showing few signs of struggle on an obstacle that had felled so many.
“Oh, my girl. I’m going to say it: This is the best technique I’ve seen tonight on the toughest obstacle on the course. I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” said Maddern.
“I’ve got tingles. Olivia Vivian has pulled off the most incredible performance on the invisible ladder tonight,” said Ben Fordham.
Ecstatic at the top of the ladder, Vivian became the first woman to hit a semi-final buzzer in Australian Ninja Warrior history — and won a place in the grand final in the process, placing fourth in her semi-final.
Off the course, Freddie Flintoff had one question for Vivian: Can she be the first woman to win Australian Ninja Warrior?
Her response: “Watch me.”
Australian Ninja Warrior concludes with two grand final episodes, 7pm Sunday and 7.30pm next Monday on Nine.