In May, Candace Granberg, M.D., got the chance of a lifetime for a fitness and endurance fan: a shot at running NBC's American Ninja Warrior course and participating in one of the reality show's qualifying events. It was an opportunity Dr. Granberg hadn't actually applied for. Instead, she was invited to compete based on a video she'd submitted to another NBC program, the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge. Her team didn't make the cut, but someone in TV land liked what they saw in Dr. Granberg.
"The casting team for American Ninja Warrior called me out of the blue and said, 'The producers really liked your application and video, and they want you on ANW Season 9 in Denver,'" Dr. Granberg tells us. "There were over 77,000 applications for this season, so I was pretty surprised they found me."
If you ask us, it's no surprise Dr. Granberg's story stood out. In addition to her work as a pediatric urologist at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, she's also the mother of two young children and has made five trips to Haiti as a volunteer with LEAP Global Missions. On top of that, she's got mad physical skills. (Check out the gun show in this photo.)
Though she admits to initially experiencing a bit of uncertainty, Dr. Granberg tells us that feeling quickly gave way to excitement — and focus. "I love a challenge, so I decided I better start training," she says. And for help with that, she knew just who to call: Mayo's original American Ninja Warrior, Andrew Yori. "I sent Roo a message and told him I needed some ninja coaching," she tells us of the show veteran and now gym buddy.
As the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports, the two had a month to prepare Dr. Granberg for the uber-challenging — and ever-changing — extreme obstacle course. "The obstacles are different in every city qualifier, and they change from year to year," she says. "We don't get to try anything on the course before we run it — literally, the first time you touch anything on the course is your one and only chance to take on the obstacles."
When the time came for Dr. Granberg to take her shot, Yori was there on the sidelines to cheer her on. As was a group of friends and family, including Dr. Granberg's husband and daughter. "Being able to show my daughter that girls are strong, and you can do anything if you put your mind to it" is an especially gratifying part of the ninja warrior experience, she says. That's a message she also hopes to convey to her young patients, one of whom traveled nine hours to see her compete in Denver. "It is an honor to be considered a role model for kids," she tells us, adding that many patients who have learned she competed on the show are "so excited that their surgeon is a ninja."
Confidentiality rules prevent Dr. Granberg from telling us how she did on the course, but she is able to talk about some of the lessons she learned from the show. Among them, "Things that seem impossible (you know, like a really high warped wall) become possible with hard work," she says. "I really think this mindset transfers to many things in one's personal life and work." (We don't disagree.)
Scenes from the Denver qualifier will air on July 17. The Kansas City qualifier, where Yori competed this season, will air July 3. Set your recorder and then make like a ninja and leave a comment below. Then, you can use the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.