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How a sweatshirt helped inspire Sandy Zimmerman to make the American Ninja Warrior finals

Spokane mom Sandy Zimmerman had the sweatshirt for five years. She finally put it on Monday night.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane’s Sandy Zimmerman advanced to the American Ninja Warrior Finals on Monday night. 

Last year, she became the first mom to complete the course. However, that occurred in the first round of qualifying. She placed 13th in the semis and missed out on the finals by one spot.

That meant she had to put off putting on a sweatshirt for another year. 

On Monday night, she finally got to put it on.

"I had to dust the thing off. It’s been sitting there for five years," she said. 

After Sandy Zimmerman first competed in American Ninja Warrior in 2015, her friend gave her a sweatshirt. It said, "American Ninja Warrior finalist." She was nowhere near that accomplishment at that time.

"I remember looking at it thinking, ‘Oh boy. He does not know how this show works. I went out on the second obstacle.’ I thought, ‘There’s no way I can wear that sweatshirt,'" said Zimmerman.

So she didn't. 

"I thought, ‘I am going to put that sweatshirt on when I have made it to the American Ninja Warrior finals.’ Tonight is my chance. It’s my chance to get another big dream," said Zimmerman of her Monday night run.

Credit: Sandy Zimmerman

Any dream that takes five years to achieve obviously isn’t easy. Perseverance is one thing that the sweatshirt now represents to Sandy.

"Cool things happen when you don’t quit and give up. If you just stick to your goals and your dreams long enough, it’ll happen. It’s that grit and that determination and that perseverance though that it takes," Zimmerman said.

The article of clothing doesn’t just represent the perseverance Sandy has displayed throughout American Ninja Warrior, though. It also represents the perseverance she has displayed her entire life. 

Sandy was sexually, physically and emotionally abused as a child.

"It was something sitting in my closet that was a reminder of my shortcomings but also a reminder of my strength and that our past doesn’t define us. It’s the decisions that we make every day that make us who we are. It was just me intentionally going every day, 'Let’s get a step closer to getting that sweatshirt and getting to wear it and getting to put it on,'" Zimmerman said.

Credit: Sandy Zimmerman

If you see Sandy walking around Spokane with the sweatshirt on, know that she's now showing off her accolade. It’s Sandy encouraging others to take their perseverance and turn it into power.

"For over 20 years, every once in awhile I’d hear the voice saying, ‘Sandy, share your story.’ Every time for 20 years, I’d stuff it down and go, ‘No way.’ I’d have all kinds of good excuses why I didn’t want to share it," Zimmerman said.

"It wasn’t until I started doing American Ninja Warrior, and I heard the voice say, ‘Sandy, share your story,’ that I finally had the courage and confidence to pause for a moment and hear the second part of the voice that was, ‘But Sandy it has a happy ending.’ And I thought, ‘It does,’" she continued. 

Zimmerman has an opportunity to add to her happy ending in the American Ninja Warrior finals when they air on Oct. 28.

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