Wendy Oberholtzer of Palmyra, PA hopes to be the next American Ninja Warrior Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News
Wendy Oberholtzer decided to try out for the show to help her overcome another obstacle — hearing loss.
Lebanon County may soon be able to claim that it is home to its very own American ninja warrior.
Wendy Oberholtzer, a resident of North Lebanon Township, is currently training to be on the 2017 season of NBC’s and Esquire Network’s “American Ninja Warrior” television show.
The show follows competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses during city qualifying rounds and city finals rounds across the country. Those who successfully complete the finals move on to the national finals in Las Vegas, where they have to face a four-stage obstacle course modeled after Japan’s Mount Midoriyami course for a grand prize of $1 million, according to the show’s official website.
Oberholtzer, who is 40 years old and on disability, decided to apply to be on the show to overcome a different sort of obstacle.
“I am 100 percent deaf,” she said. “I had to wear hearing aids when I was growing up, and as I got older my hearing deteriorated.”
Oberholtzer has had two surgeries to attempt to restore her hearing, both involving the installation of a cochlear implant, a device that is meant to replace damaged parts of the inner ear to provide sound signals to the brain, according to cochlear.com. The second surgery restored a percentage of her hearing from May to July 2011 before the implant failed. A third surgery was considered, but Oberholzter decided not to go through with it.
“I didn’t want to risk the third surgery because the outcomes become less optimistic after each one,” she explained. “With a third surgery, there is a chance the cochlear could collapse, so I didn’t want to risk it.”
The fact that she wouldn’t be able to hear again put her in a deep depression, she said.
“It felt like the whole world was crashing around me because I had to learn to live with no hearing at all,” Oberholtzer said. “Eventually I said, ‘You know what? I have to overcome my hearing loss. I know I’ll never hear again, but I have to overcome it.’”
Her desire to overcome her disability is what led her to try out for “American Ninja Warrior.”
“When I first saw ‘American Ninja Warrior’ a few years ago, it was something I was really interested in,” she said. “I kept stepping back from it though since you have to hear sounds, like the timer starting for example.”
She changed her mind, however, when she changed her attitude toward her hearing loss.
“Just being me, and not worrying about what anyone else thinks, along with beginning the training for 'American Ninja Warrior,' helped me get out of my depression,” she said.
Oberholtzer made the decision in February to try out for the show, and must have her application filled out and an audition video submitted by October to be considered for the 2017 season.
“You can just go as a walk-on, but then you have to wait in line and that goes on for three days,” she explained. “If you apply online, you can bypass all of that — at least that is what I was told.”
Once she decided to try out for the show, she started getting in shape.
“I did a lot of exercising — a lot of cardio and a lot of upper body work — to get ready for this when I decided I was going to try to get on the show,” she said. “You have to work out a lot before you start doing anything with the obstacles.”
Once Oberholtzer achieved a level of fitness where she could begin taking on the obstacles, she started to train on a ninja warrior course at Icore Fitness in Philadelphia, while building her own course in her basement and in her backyard.
“Family and friends helped me build my course at home,” she said. “We built the course according to what we saw in pictures of the 'American Ninja Warrior' course.”
The basement course has obstacles, such as the hanging globe grasps, handlebars and pegboard like they have on the show, Oberholtzer said. They plan to expand the course over time with a salmon ladder — a horizontal bar that has to be moved up pegs that are set in a ladder-like pattern while hanging in mid-air — being the next addition.
She also built a warped wall in her backyard.
“They just raised the height of the wall on the show from 14 feet to 14 1/2 feet, so we have to add a 2-by-4 to the top of my wall to make it the appropriate height,” she said. “I’m able to get up to about 2 feet below the top of the wall right now.”
When Paramount Sports Complex, 21 Landings Drive, South Londonderry Township, opened its ninja warrior course in May, Oberholtzer was thrilled.
“Now I don’t have to travel the whole way to Philadelphia to train, and the Paramount course is very good,” she said.
Oberholtzer is self-training with little instruction from outside sources, other than some guidance from Paramount’s ninja warrior instructors.
“I get some assistance there as to what I’m doing wrong, and then I’ll go home and practice on what I need to work on,” she said.
Her biggest challenges on the obstacle course right now are the warped wall, the floating doors and the salmon ladder, she said, but she feels the main obstacle is within.
“My biggest challenge at this point is just staying positive and doing the best I can to beat the next obstacle I face,” she said. “Each day I go back and I say, ‘If I made it through this one obstacle, then I’m better for it the next day.’ When I make it through the next obstacle, I look back and know that I’m better than I was the day before.”
Despite the intimidating obstacles, Oberholtzer said she is looking forward to taking on the “American Ninja Warrior” course.
“I’m really looking forward to trying all the stuff they have on the show,” she said. “I’m out of my shell, and I’m not afraid.”