In a few days, Air Force Staff Sgt. Randall Forsythe, 29, will be in California to attempt what so far has proven impossible.
Forsythe, a 375th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, based at Scott Air Force Base, will be in Los Angeles to compete against dozens of other airmen, sailors, soldiers and marines for an all-military version of the NBC summer hit sport entertainment program, “American Ninja Warrior.”
The program, which features a series of fiendishly difficult obstacles that test contestants’ upper body strength, leaping ability and stamina, has inspired a cult following. So far no one has completed every stage of the American championship course to claim a grand prize that today stands at $1 million.
If he wins in the regional in LA, Forsythe sees no reason why he can’t be the first person to conquer the championship course in Las Vegas, which goes by the name of Mount Midoriyama.
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Forsythe thinks the key to conquering the course is simple: “To be confident, but not over-confident,” he said. “You obviously got to be ready to go, but not over-confident.”
On Monday, dressed in fatigue pants, T-shirt and military boots, Forsythe warmed up in the weight room of Scott’s James Sports Center, first by benching a pair of 70-pound dumb bells, then cranking out a couple fast sets of pull-ups and dips. Next up was the pegboard, that staple of high school wrestling rooms, followed by more pull-ups. Then, Tarzan-like, he used his body’s momentum to swing easily from a set of iron bars spaced six feet apart and eight feet off the ground.
Forsythe spent his childhood climbing up trees for fun in the northern Florida town where he grew up. He later played football and ran cross-country, then discovered weightlifting. Years later, after becoming a fan of the Japanese version of Ninja Warrior, Forsythe said he wanted to do the show in honor of his father, who passed away in January at the age of 53.
“It was unexpected,” Forsythe said. “He found out he had Stage IV lung and liver cancer. ... I was like, ‘Life is short, I’m going to try to pursue this.’”
Forsythe has been training to compete in “American Ninja Warrior” for about five months. The centerpiece of his training consists of visits to a gym called “KOR Komplex” in Saint Charles, where students train specifically to conquer American Ninja Warrior obstacles, such as the infamous Warped Wall.
A brief video he made of himself training at that gym, which he sent in to the show’s producers, convinced them to invite him to compete on the all-military edition of the show.
“You may think you’re tough, but when you start training for this specific challenge you are proven wrong,” said Forsythe, from Crestview, Fla., in the state’s northern tier. “The obstacles test your endurance and strength.”
Forsythe is married with two young daughters, Alivianna, 6, and Bella, 4 months. Alivianna is an aspiring gymnast, and Forsythe said he made his audition tape to help inspire her.
Although his training regimen means many hours away from the family, Forsythe said his wife, Shahannah, is one of his biggest supporters, as well as a tough taskmaster.
“There’s been a couple of times when I’m like, ‘I’m not going to train today,’” Forsythe said. “She’s like, ‘Yeah, you are.’”
One of the toughest challenges about competing on “American Ninja Warrior” is training to conquer obstacles that are kept under wraps by the show’s producers until the day of competition. Forsythe said he tries to deal with this challenge by going to the YouTube website “to see what they’ve done in the past to try to mirror it.”
Forsythe said he likes the high-pressure format of “American Ninja Warrior,” a show where years of hard work can go up in smoke because of a tiny mistake that results in a fall.
“You either fall really hard or do really well,” he said.
The show featuring Forsythe has not yet been scheduled. “American Ninja Warrior” appears in the metro-east on KSDK/Channel 5 at 7 p.m. Mondays.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.