When Guam’s Deren Perez advanced to the “American Ninja Warrior” semifinals earlier this month, it wasn’t unexpected or out of the ordinary. After all, in many similar competitions, the 37-year-old had made the semifinals, but this time it was different.

But before competition had begun, Perez’s most-recent “American Ninja Warrior” journey nearly failed to get off the ground. He had caught COVID-19.

“Before I went into the qualifying round, I had COVID,” Perez said. “That really hurt my training, since COVID affected me severely - 107-degree fever, lost over 12 pounds and was hospitalized. Because of that, I was lucky to have done as well as I did. That also meant the intensity of my training needed to pick up.

“Now, my focus is to regain all the muscle and strength I've lost from COVID.”

With the goal of hitting the buzzer and completing obstacle course challenges, Perez said he really wants to get the “18-foot Mega Wall,” a sloped wall, you guessed it, reaching 18 feet into the air.

“You have to attack each obstacle one at a time,” Perez said. “Because if you fall, your run is done.”

Perez said that he trains up to four hours daily, six days a week. It’s this kind of focus and determination that has helped Perez advance through the qualification rounds.

“Passing the qualification round meant I had to place in the top 30 of 100 other very talented and strong competitors,” said Perez, who is competing in Season 13 of “American Ninja Warrior."

“There are five different qualifiers all with different obstacles. You never know or get to see the course until day of competition. This meant I really had to focus and trust in myself and my training.”

As Perez recovers and prepares for the semifinals, he is always ready to display the Guam flag and represent his island.

“Being able to represent Guam on such a big scale such as 'American Ninja Warrior' is such an honor,” Perez said. “It’s such a powerful feeling to fly the flag for all of America to see where I'm from. I definitely love being able to educate and share the culture and pride of Guam/CHamorus.”

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