In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

April 26, 2016

Lab Tech by Day, Ninja Warrior by Primetime

By In the Loop

The American Ninja Warrier competition isn't just fun and games to Andrew Yori. “The K9 Ninja,” as he’ll be known on the show, has been rescuing dogs for more than a decade.When mere mortals tune into American Ninja Warrior, a reality TV show where contestants face obstacles like the Bridge of Blades, Jumping Spider and Half-Pipe Attack, we usually utter some variation of, “Whoa.” (Followed quickly, perhaps, by some variation of, “Pass the chips.”) But not Andrew Yori. The first time Andrew, a lab technician at Mayo Clinic, saw the show, he thought, “That looks like a lot of fun.”

He’s about to find out if it is. As KAAL-TV reports, Andrew is among 600 or so people selected to compete in an American Ninja Warrior regional qualifying event. If he makes it through the April 27 event in Indiana, it’ll be on to the main event in Las Vegas.

What did it take to make the cut? Mad physical skills, of course. “I’ve always been an athlete and a pretty competitive person,” he tells us. He played soccer at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, and “broke the school record for the long jump his first year,” according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin. A few years ago, he got into CrossFit and recently started participating in local ninja warrior competitions. (Yup. That's a thing.) He typically trains for two to three hours on his “hard days” and an hour or so on “off” days. (Yeah, us, too.) You can see the fruits of that labor in this video, parts of which Andrew submitted with his application to the show in January. In late March, he received the call inviting him to Indianapolis.

Though he was thrilled, there was a small problem: He’d recently injured his shoulder, and it was still giving him trouble. “I’m 39 years old and don’t heal as quickly as I did when I was a young buck,” Andrew tells us.

With just a month to prepare for the competition, he scheduled an appointment with Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine “to make sure what I was doing to try and recover was correct and confirm that I could compete.” A team led by Jacob Sellon, M.D., ran him through tests, including an MRI to determine the extent of his injury. Then, they “presented me with treatment options,” he says, eventually settling together on cortisone shots and physical therapy. Andrew says the combination got him ready to compete.

Some of Andrew Yori's colleagues threw him a surprise good luck party on his last day of work before heading to the American Ninja Warrior competition.

Some of Andrew Yori's colleagues threw him a surprise good luck party on his last day of work before heading to the American Ninja Warrior competition.

The competition isn't just fun and games to Andrew. “The K9 Ninja,” as he’ll be known on the show, has been rescuing dogs for more than a decade, including a pit bull named Wallace who became “a world- and national-level Frisbee dog champion.” After Wallace passed away, Andrew and his wife, Clara, established a foundation to “to preserve and promote his story, promote adoption, and support other dogs and people that make a positive impact within their communities.” And Andrew hopes his appearance will “help spread a good message” about shelter dogs in need of homes and “encourage people to … add one to their family.”

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Editor’s note: We checked in with Andrew after he returned to Rochester. While show rules prevent him from telling us whether he made it to the next round of competition, he was able to share a bit about the overall experience. “Competing … was an amazing experience,” he says. “In training, you get to try things multiple times if you mess up, but on the show you get one shot on obstacles you’ve never even touched before.” He says he and the other competitors “shared ideas and techniques that might help as we were getting ready to take on the course,” adding that “it was more like us against the course rather than us against each other.” And while he enjoyed both the course and the community, Andrew says the best part of the competition was the platform it gave him. “I got the chance to encourage … people in the stands to think about adopting a dog the next time they are looking to add one to their family,” he tells us, a number that “will go from thousands to millions” if his run is televised on June 13. “Regardless of how I did, if I can save the lives of some dogs, then it’s a win for me.”


Tags: Andrew Yori, Dr Jacob Sellon, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine, Patient Stories, Staff Stories

Passion hardwork dedication to rescuing dogs, I hope it takes you far. You and your wife’s efforts to motivate people to rescue is a much needed message!


I can’t wait to see you compete. You know there will be tons of people rooting you on. Thank you for what you do. YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!

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