By KATHRYN BASSETT
Michael Bougher of Fort Wayne was looking for a fun way to exercise and stay active when he entered the Classic City Center gym south of Waterloo.
The gym has just finished installing its first Ninja Warrior obstacle — a “warped wall” — and Bougher gave it a try.
“It’s a 14 ½ foot wall that’s warped. It bends so you can run up it” Bougher explained. “I made it!”
From that point on, Bougher knew this was the sport for him. He began his Ninja Warrior career almost three years ago and took first place in the “American Ninja Warrior,” Indianapolis qualifiers earlier this spring. Bougher went on to compete in the Indianapolis finals, which aired Aug. 6 on NBC.
The Indianapolis course was set up on the street around Monument Circle downtown.
Bougher placed sixth in the city finals to move on to the national finals in Las Vegas. The national finals, which also have been recorded, were scheduled to be aired Aug. 27.
The national finals feature four stages of competition, and participants must complete each stage, conquering various obstacles to move on, Bougher explained. The competitor who completes all stages in the fastest time stands to win $1 million, Bougher said. However, only one person has taken the grand prize in the show’s history, he added. If no one goes all the way, the last competitor standing with the fastest time wins $100,000.
Bougher also competed in last year’s “American Ninja Warrior” in Kansas City, but was knocked out in the city finals after falling on one of the obstacles.
“I was going for speed and fell,” he recalled. “This year I tried to have more fun. I told myself to have a good, fun time.”
Bougher said he wishes he could devote more time to training in the gym, like the professionals who train every day.
“This is their life,” he said, noting that many of the professionals own their own gyms. “I get to go once a week. That’s the most time I get.”
In addition to training at the CCC, Bougher also teaches a Ninja Warrior class for children ages 8-14. He is a full-time student at Purdue University Fort Wayne, an emergency medical technician, a soldier in the National Guard, a volunteer firefighter and a member of the Fort Wayne men’s rugby team.
“I stay pretty busy. I don’t sleep a lot,” he quipped.
No matter where life takes him, Bougher said, he plans to continue with his passion for Ninja Warriors.
“I love it,” Bougher said. “Not only is it a fun and incredible experience, the community of people who compete are so involved. Everybody is so incredibly nice and welcoming. We want everybody to do things as well as they possibly can on the course. Everybody is giving helpful hints. That’s the best part.”