Graff was a contestant on the comically-oriented obstacle course show Wipeout’s tenth episode of its first season in 2008, with the commentator appellation “Stuntwoman”.
Jessie Graff Obstacle competitor career
In that appearance, she finished second in the qualifier round (successfully navigating most of it, including a traversal of Big Balls), second again on the next round, but fell in the penultimate round and thus did not make it to the Wipeout Zone.
On season 5 (2013) of American Ninja Warrior (ANW), she became the first woman to qualify to compete in a City Finals course (although she did not complete the qualifier course).
In season 6 (2014) of American Ninja Warrior she could not compete due to an injury. She had torn her ACL, TCL and meniscus. While healing Graff changed her focus and spent eight months working primarily on pull-ups and grip strength. At this point, she could only do three pull-ups in a row, though she could complete 30 pull-ups by season 8.
In the season 7 (2015) of American Ninja Warrior she appeared at Stage One in Las Vegas and got past the first few obstacles, but could not quite make it up Stage One’s more difficult warped wall. She resolved during the off-season to build up her leg strength so that would overcome that obstacle next time around.
In season 8 (2016) of American Ninja Warrior, in the Los Angeles qualifying round, she became the first woman in American Ninja Warrior history to make it up the new 14 1/2-foot Warped Wall and moved on to the city finals along with professional rock climber Natalie Duran. This was the first time two women made it into the Top 30.
In the Los Angeles city finals, Graff did not complete the course but finished second overall based on the show’s “the farthest the fastest” metric. This broke her own record for the highest finish by a woman in a city competition though 2016. Kacy Catanzaro remains the only woman to complete a city finals course, although her overall placement that night was less than Graff’s mark.
Of her public renown, she has said on her website:
I have spent the last ten years behind the scenes working as a stunt woman. Recently I have gotten some face time which I have strived to use for breaking gender stereotypes, and becoming a positive female role model. Being feminine shouldn’t mean you can’t be athletic, strong and confident. Healthy is attractive!
At the season 8 national finals at Mt. Midoriyama, finishing fourth overall, with only eight athletes out of forty-five able to finish at all in Week 1’s set of Stage 1 competitors.
She had 12.39 seconds to spare out of a 2:20 minute time limit and was also the first woman to ever ascend the Warped Wall on Stage 1 in Las Vegas, which has a shorter run-up than the regular one. During the run she wore a two-piece custom-made Green Lantern costume, and had drawn a Green Lantern ring with marker on her finger.
A stop-motion LEGO video was released soon after her win, which was inspired by her performance in this race. Following the runs of the second week’s group of Stage 1 competitors, Graff was in 5th place overall of 90 competitors, with only 17 of them able to finish and move on (a record low for the competition, indicating the difficulty of the course).
On Stage 2, which proved difficult for all competitors and surrendered only two finishers, Graff staged a credible run, struggling a bit on the Giant Ring Swing, powering her way through the Down Up Salmon Ladder, but then fell off the Wave Runner when attempting the transition between its two boards, one of several athletes to go out in that manner.