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Takahashi Kenji (高橋 賢次) owns a one-man delivery company, Kong Express. Because of this, he is sometimes called Kong Takahashi, or just simply Kongu. He is regarded as one of SASUKE's most powerful and well-rounded competitors.

The Early Days

According to information from Kenji himself, he first took part in SASUKE 5, where he was cut from broadcast. There, he failed the Rolling Maruta. He was also cut from SASUKE 6 where he timed out on the Soritatsu Kabe.

His first broadcast attempt was SASUKE 7, his third appearance. He started strong, reaching the Soritatsu Kabe with 35 seconds left. Here, he was able to scale it at his second attempt, and despite struggling at the Rope Climb, he still cleared the stage in time. In his first attempt at the Second Stage, he foreshadowed his future dominance in this stage, speeding through all the obstacles, and finishing with the fastest clear of the stage that tournament with 18.5 seconds left, a new record at the time. Despite his impressive performances, his Third Stage attempt was digested. Although he passed the first three obstacles, when he attempted the Cliffhanger, despite clearing the transition to the upper ledge, he ran out of stamina and fell into the water after touching the mat with his foot. After this impressive run, he had a 4 year, 8 competition hiatus.

Return Engagement

After his long break, he returned in SASUKE 16. Despite his long absence, he continued to perform very well, clearing the First Stage with 8.99 seconds left (in a digested performance) and the Second Stage, again with the fastest time. Now facing the Cliffhanger Kai version, he made the first transition but ran out of strength midway in the second ledge and slipped and fell.

After skipping SASUKE 17, he would return in SASUKE 18, wearing #98, his highest number ever. He would also debut a new look that became synonymous with him, with a now shaved head and red uniform. Although the course was entirely redesigned, he had no problems in the first two stages, with his second stage run being a record breaking clear at the time (26.9 secs) as well as his third consecutive fastest clear in that stage. Facing now the Shin Cliffhanger, he attempted the obstacle as the Last Man Standing, but he was unable to perform the jump to the third ledge, falling short of the ledge and ending the tournament.

Unexpectedly, Takahashi would suffer four straight First Stage fails. In SASUKE 19, he was one of many to fail the much more hardened Jumping Spider. He defeated it in SASUKE 20 but eventually failed the Flying Chute. In SASUKE 21, he suffered another Jumping Spider failure, and in SASUKE 22, he made it all the way to the Rope Ladder before timing out and it was also unfortunately cut from the broadcast.

SASUKE Rebirth

Takahashi Kenji reaching over the gap of the Shin-Cliffhanger (SASUKE 23). He is the only person to ever successfully do so.

Finally in SASUKE 23 he cleared the First Stage with time to spare. In the Second Stage he was the first to clear the new Unstable Bridge and later the stage with a time that while fast (17.7 secs) would also not be fast enough, ending his streak. In the Third Stage, he reached the Shin-Cliffhanger, but attacked it with a different strategy. He used his long armspan to grab the third ledge rather than jump to it, a move similarly done by Nagasaki Shunsuke, the difference being that he would cross his arms prior to grabbing the third ledge. This unorthodox strategy, which some refer to as the Kong Cross, allowed him to easily complete the obstacle. This was also the first time he ever cleared any version of the Cliffhanger. After clearing three obstacles that were new to him, he fell just short of the finish mat on the final obstacle, the Gliding Ring.

In SASUKE 24, Takahashi again performed exceptionally. He cleared the First Stage with 24.06 seconds remaining, and on the Second Stage he swiftly defeated the new Salmon Ladder and Unstable Bridge combination, and easily cleared the stage with 32.11 seconds remaining, the fastest time in that tournament by far, as well as the 2nd fastest in SASUKE history behind Levi Meeuwenberg's 38.54 seconds in SASUKE 20. In the Third Stage, after demonstrating his effective technique again on the shin-cliffhanger, he focused his energy and beat the Gliding Ring that he failed in the previous tournament and beat Stage Three for the first time ever. His post-clear celebration would be an iconic moment in the shin-sasuke era, slapping the mat in jubilation. In the Final Stage, he scaled the Heavenly Ladder rather quickly, but on the G-Rope his safety rigging tangled up and he timed out about halfway up the rope.

In SASUKE 25, Takahashi received a low Start Position in the lottery, #40. During the tournament, he beat the First Stage and Second Stage once again - the latter of which would be the 5th time he would clear in the fastest time, this time it was 20.9 secs. In the Third Stage, he was the first to attempt and beat the new Roulette Cylinder, Doorknob Grasper and Floating Boards. However he would be the first of 4 Ultimate Cliffhanger fails, for Kongu he failed while attempting the transition from the first ledge to the second ledge.

In SASUKE 26, he shocked many when he slipped off the Rolling Escargot that had claimed many strong competitors including Yamamoto Shingo and Kanno Hitoshi. His run was digested along with Kanno's failure of the same obstacle (although G4 aired both of their runs in full).

In SASUKE 27, he again was digested in the First Stage due to the numerous clears, this time failing the new Spin Bridge obstacle. He also received his lowest starting position ever, #15.

Although present in SASUKE 28, he did not compete for unknown reasons.

In SASUKE 29 he managed to clear the First Stage for the first time since the 25th tournament, doing so with 23 seconds remaining. He then became only the second man to clear the heavily hardened Second Stage, doing so with 5.14 seconds remaining, the fastest time of the night and the sixth and final time he would clear the stage with the fastest . On the Third Stage, he started off well, showing unbelievable speed and power on the Iron Paddler by speeding through the obstacle in just 3 seconds. However, he failed the transition to the 2nd ledge in Crazy Cliffhanger due to overreaching, as his left hand was far from the end of the first ledge.

Kenji 29 1.jpeg
Kenji 29 2.jpeg

Kenji failing the Crazy Cliffhanger in SASUKE 29

SASUKE 30 would involve his most controversial fail in his career. Despite clearing the First Stage with ease, on the Second Stage, he was disqualified on the Swap Salmon Ladder in a rather controversial matter. Although he landed the bar properly on the second jump, the left landing ledge pulled back causing the left side of the bar to drop down to the landing ledge before popping back in after the left bar dropped. Takahashi would level the bar but when he later learned about the DQ, he was greatly angered with this circumstance and even complained about it. Unfortunately it fell on deaf ears and his 100% Second Stage clear record was ruined. This would be a problem with several other competitors, most notably Nagano Makoto.

In SASUKE 31, Takahashi cleared the First Stage with just one second left due to struggles on the Soritatsu Kabe, and cleared the second without any issue due to a new Salmon Ladder design, thus making it back to the Third Stage, but unfortunately he failed at the Crazy Cliffhanger for a second time. This time he made it to the jump, but couldn't hang on to the 4th ledge.

Takahashi then competed in American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. The World 2, as part of the reformed Team Japan which was modified to include taller competitors (such as himself and Kawaguchi Tomohiro) to adapt to the height-biased American course. Takahashi competed in Stage 1, up against Tim Champion and Kevin Bull. He went second, after Champion had failed the final obstacle, the Triple Swing, however he failed earlier on the second obstacle, the Propeller Bar and so Team Japan lost that round. He then went up against Drew Drechsel and Sean McColl in Stage 2. Drechsel had gone first and set a time of 1:23 seconds. Takahashi clearly rushed the Double Salmon Ladder as he attempted to clear 2 rungs at a time. He landed lop-sided in doing this and eventually the bar fell off the ladder, plummeting Takahashi into the water, costing Japan a win.

In SASUKE 32 he failed the TIE Fighter, a new obstacle. The last few runs were postponed after Drew Drechsel's run, who went directly after Takahashi. Drechsel had complained that the course was too wet towards the end of the day when he ran, implying that Takahashi's run, and thus the obstacle that he fell on was wet and slippery.

In SASUKE 33, despite better weather conditions, he surprisingly failed on the TIE Fighter again. His run was digested.

In SASUKE 34, Takahashi got his revenge on the TIE Fighter and managed to clear the First Stage, with his celebration being one of the most memorable in the show's history. In the Second Stage however, his run ended on the Reverse Conveyor, where he struggled and eventually fell off the belt due to fatigue, his only legitimate fail.

In SASUKE 35, he made it to the Dragon Glider, however, the bar became dislodged, and his feet touched the water. In a post run interview, Takahashi said that SASUKE 35 would be his last tournament.

Trivia

  • Takahashi has attempted the most versions of the Cliffhanger with 5, and has attempted a version of the cliffhanger 8 times in his career
  • Out of these cliffhanger attempts, he has only cleared twice, failing on 6 other occasions. A dubious record shared with Sato Jun and Hioki Masashi
  • Takahashi, Urushihara Yuuji, Takeda Toshihiro, Kanno Hitoshi, and Morimoto Yusuke share the record for the most Salmon Ladder variations attempted, at 5.
    • In addition, Takahashi, Urushihara, Kanno, and Morimoto completed the most Salmon Ladder variations, also at 5.
  • Takahashi is the first competitor to fail the Reverse Conveyor by not timing out.
  • Takahashi holds the record for the most Second Stage clears for a non-all star, with 8. He is only surpassed by three All-Stars Nagano Makoto (11 times), Yamamoto Shingo (11 times) and Takeda Toshihiro (13 times), with all of these competitors having competed in several more competitions (Nagano competed in 26 competitions, Takeda competed in 30 competitions, Yamamoto competed in 39).
  • Takahashi, along with Nagasaki Shunsuke, are the only competitors to attempt the Shin-Cliffhanger by not jumping towards the ledge, but by reaching towards the ledge. While Nagasaki failed his attempt, Takahashi cleared it this way twice, thus being the only person to attempt and clear the Shin-Cliffhanger under these unique circumstances.
  • Takahashi owns the second fastest clear in the Second Stage, as he completed the stage with 32.11 seconds remaining in SASUKE 24. Since the fastest clear time in this particular stage is owned by foreigner Levi Meeuwenberg (38.5 in SASUKE 20) Takahashi also owns the honor of fastest second stage clear by a Japanese Contestant.
  • Takahashi and Levi are also the only competitors to have cleared the Second Stage with over 30 seconds remaining.
  • Takahashi also owns another second stage record, with 6 of his 8 clears in that stage being the fastest clears in their respective tournaments (SASUKE's 7, 16, 18, 24, 25 & 29), he owns the most fastest clears in the stages history.

Results

SASUKE # Result Notes
5 76 Failed Rolling Maruta (First Stage) All Cut. External Information.
6 67 Failed Soritatsu Kabe (First Stage) All Cut. Time Out. External Information.
7 46 Failed Cliffhanger (Third Stage) Touched down the mat with one foot, but lost his balance and fell back into the water. Second and Third Stage runs digested on g4.
16 66 Failed Cliffhanger (Third Stage) Failed Transition.
18 98 Failed Shin-Cliffhanger (Third Stage) Last Man Standing.
19 84 Failed Jumping Spider (First Stage)
20 1988 Failed Flying Chute (First Stage)
21 85 Failed Jumping Spider (First Stage) Digest.
22 80 Failed Rope Ladder (First Stage) All Cut. Time Out.
23 84 Failed Gliding Ring (Third Stage) Failed Jump.
24 94 Failed G-Rope (Final Stage) 20m up. Twisted up the G-Rope and got the safety wire tangled, causing him to stop.
25 40 Failed Ultimate Cliffhanger (Third Stage) First Ledge.
26 96 Failed Rolling Escargot (First Stage) Digest. Full run shown on G4.
27 15 Failed Spin Bridge (First Stage) Digest. Full run shown on G4.
29 87 Failed Crazy Cliffhanger (Third Stage) Failed Transition to 2nd Ledge.
30 2995 Failed Swap Salmon Ladder (Second Stage) Disqualified. Technical error. First time failing the 2nd Stage.
31 89 Failed Crazy Cliffhanger (Third Stage) Failed Jump to 4th Ledge.
32 92 Failed TIE Fighter (First Stage)
33 87 Failed TIE Fighter (First Stage) Digest.
34 83 Failed Reverse Conveyor (Second Stage) Digest. Fell off the belt.
35 93 Failed Dragon Glider (First Stage) Course Out. Dislodged bar and his feet touched the water.

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