Elementary School Teacher with Crohn’s Hit Buzzer on American Ninja
Upon graduating from college back in 2011, Chad Riddle was looking to take on a new athletic challenge. This is when he first saw ‘Sasuke’, a Japanese sports TV show where competitors attempt to complete a four-stage obstacle course. “I knew my background in rock climbing would suit me well to tackle this endeavor,” said Riddle. He began training for ‘American Ninja Warrior’, a widely popular US version of the Japanese TV show. However, he struggled to find the balance he needed to conquer the course. “If you have one weakness you’ll be exploited and not successful,” he said. To help with balance, Riddle built a ninja course in his parent’s backyard and then in the yard of his own home.
In 2013, he competed in a qualifying event for the show, which took place in Miami. He made it through the first few obstacles but ultimately came up short when he misjudged a jump and fell during the fifth obstacle. “Competing under the bright lights is very intimidating, but it was also so far away from home, and I didn’t have a lot of friends and family that could come down with me,” he said. Throughout that dark period, Riddle remained hopeful that he was going to get picked again. “Having a second chance to compete in the show in season 10, I wanted to make sure all that training that I put forth would help me be successful. This was my second year of competing, and the first time hitting the buzzer, it’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” he said.
Crohn’s – an obstacle course of its own
Riddle had to overcome not only his fall in season 6, but also health problems due to his condition: Crohn’s disease. After being diagnosed with the disease, he tackled his condition the same way he would on the course. “When I found out that this was going to be an obstacle I’d have to confront, everything that I learned in ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ to not give up, to persevere, it helped me tackle this chronic condition,” said Riddle. The show also gave him a platform to inspire others who are suffering from Crohn’s disease. “Unfortunately, there are not a lot of high-level athletes who suffer from this condition,” he said.
Riddle has been quite secretive on what happened during this year’s city qualifier event in Philadelphia.
He did, however, fondly recall walking across the platform when the producers called his name and listening to his friends and family cheer him on. “Just being in that moment with yourself and basically getting to test everything you’ve trained for – it’s a surreal experience,” he said. He was impressed with how the designers and producers of the show tested physical ability and mental acuity. There are obstacles with technical aspects where the competitors must use their problem-solving skills to conquer them. There are also ones that require sheer power or agility. “For me, it’s really cool that you have to be so well rounded and have such functional mechanics and functional strength if you want to do well in the sport,” he said.
To Riddle, American Ninja Warrior is more than a competition. “How many shows are out there that is truly family oriented? That anybody from grade school all the way up to adults can take a strong message away from?” he said.
Read on to learn more about Chad's story.