Steven Bachta concedes he is not your typical ninja.
“There are not a lot of 40-plus, dad/doctors who do this,” he says.
Bachta, a pediatric hospitalist at Evanston and Highland Park Hospitalis, was just on “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC, July 5) for the third time in a year.
For those who have not seen the show, or who are not gym rats watching workouts, these ninjas — part gymnast, part acrobat and part long-jumper — are totally intense about perfecting their game, in the hope of making the TV show and a chance to win $1 million.
“American Ninja Warrior,” now in its 15th season, “is the highest level of the sport,” Bachta explains.
Those making the show (and you have to be really good just to get that far) compete against the clock in a series of leaps and pulls through a strength-defying obstacle course.
“If you want to challenge yourself,” Bachta explains, “this is the most fun and a great experience.”
Thousands of people submit tapes, hoping to be selected. Not many are.
Last year, Bachta was on two “Ninja” shows, the quarter finals and the semi’s, and was invited back again this year.
This time, ninja name “Doc-ta Bachta,” almost made it to the semi’s once again. But he fell into the water during a new part of the competition … head to head against another ninja jumping from one tilted square to another, and not just racing against the clock.
Had Bachta won that event, he would have finished 12th out of 60 in his group, and moved on to the next round.
“You obviously want to do better, but as a physician and a dad, I do this on the side. I’m very proud.”
“To get this far,” Bachta says, “is special.”
Bachta was a bit disappointed that only the brief head-to-head race, where he fell, was shown on tv this week. His impressive effort to make that runoff was left on the cutting room floor, or on the digital card, or wherever TV outtakes end up these days.
But why would a “40-plus Dad/doctor” (42 actually) take up something like this in the first place?
Well, it’s exactly because he is a “40-plus Dad/doctor” who was urged to try it by his older daughter three years ago, when she was only five.
It was something to do during the pandemic.
And the commitment just kept building, with that daughter, Sydney, joining the workouts.
Now eight, Sydney is a competitive ninja herself, and younger sister Logan, now five, is starting the sport as well.
Which brings us to the World Championships, later this month, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Separate from “American Ninja Warrior,” Bachta takes part in the “Masters’ League” with regional events in Illinois and Indiana. Bachta has won all six such competitions. The World Championships are next.
Unlike the TV program, both the league and the Worlds have age groups.
“I can compete in my age level,” 40-plus, Bachta notes. “Going in, there’s a lot of confidence.”
And, Sydney, he adds, is competing as well, in the 6-8 year old group.
“She’s pretty good.”
And there is one more thing, which fits more into the “Dad” portion of this story than the “doctor.”
There is a minimum age of 16 in order to compete on the “Ninja Warrior” show.
If the program continues for eight more years (Don’t laugh. How many figured it would last this long?), and if Bachta is still competing, and if Sydney, who will be 16, is competing too, perhaps they could be a father-and-daughter “American Ninja Warrior” pair.
“If she’s 16 and I’m 50, wouldn’t that be incredible?”, Bachta says.
“That’s the dream.”