By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on August 6, 2020
SWINGING, leaping, jumping and dodging obstacles on TV was certainly not what Gnowangerup twins Chantelle Varley and Danielle Smith were expecting to do this year.
The pair made their way into season four of Australian Ninja Warrior, which began airing last month, and still find it surreal seeing themselves on screen.
As fourth generation farmers, being outdoors has always been the twins’ favourite place to be, and with that a passion for sports and fitness.
It was good friend Sam Goodall from Albany, who is also competing in this season of Australian Ninja Warrior, who encouraged the sisters to sign up for the obstacle competition.
“He said: ‘You guys should go for it, you are really active’,” Ms Smith said.
“And Dani forced me to apply!” Ms Varley laughed.
“I thought it would be cool,” Ms Smith smirked. The sisters were luckily able to attend the Perth tryouts after harvest was completed earlier than expected.
“I’d been doing sneaky training behind Chani’s back,” Ms Smith, the school chaplain for Tambellup and Katanning, said.
“Yeah, because I’d been stuck on a tractor for four weeks and done no training!” Ms Varley, who stayed on the family farm, said.
Once they learned in January that their application had been successful, their husbands got to work building a miniature ninja course for the sisters to train on.
They have a rock-climbing wall and bars in their tractor shed.
“We hit training pretty hard once we knew we got in,” Ms Smith said.
“We were training three times a week and at least once a week we’d train with Sam at his gym in Albany.”
“It was three months of hardcore training,” Ms Varley added.
With their acceptance into Australian Ninja Warrior a secret, the twins snuck off to Melbourne under the guise of a “family holiday” in March to film their episodes.
It took a bit of work to convince the Gnowangerup community that they were actually going to Melbourne for a holiday, as they are two very country people who are very anti-city.
Once they reached the course ground in Melbourne, Ms Varley and Ms Smith got on a bus at 4pm and returned to their hotel at 4am.
Their first time on the Australian Ninja Warrior track was exactly what viewers saw in the episode.
“Once you’re up there, you’re so in the moment and focused on the next step,” Ms Smith said.
Filming was conducted months before the show hit television and keeping it quiet was a funny secret to keep.
Ms Smith said it was pretty weird once students at her schools watched the show and realised she was front and centre.
“They’d be like, ‘we saw you!’, ‘you have a twin?’” she said.
“I was actually more nervous the day it was going to air than the day of actually doing it.”
Both sisters were proud the show put Gnowangerup on the national map and hoped to further promote farming and the work farmers do.
Ms Smith made it to the semi-final of Australian Ninja Warrior on Monday but did not go through to the grand final.
Ms Varley participated in Heat 2 but did not reach the next round.
Sam Goodall and brother-in-law Zed Colback from Mandurah have made it through to the grand final.
Stage 1 of the grand final will air this Sunday at 7pm on Nine and Stage 2, 3, and 4 will follow on Monday at 7.30pm