South Shore physician could be the first ‘American Ninja’ |

South Shore physician could be the first ‘American Ninja’

Adam Jensen

As the pop-culture battles between pirates, zombies and ninjas rage, one South Shore physician is looking at possible certification as a pop-culture ninja.

Noah Kaufman, a 38-year-old avid rock climber, has sought to become the first person to complete the multistage Mount Midoriyama obstacle course on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” TV show.

The fifth season of the show premiered July 1. The episode included a near flawless effort by Kaufman on the competition’s Venice, Calif., qualifying course, which contained a dash between slanted pedestals, a swing across a series of dangling chains, crossing a wide stretch using only a pair of dangling “nunchucks” and scaling a steep curved wall.

Kaufman, a doctor with Tahoe Emergency Physicians for the past seven years, works at both Barton Memorial Hospital and Carson Valley Medical Center. He moved to Minden four years ago from the South Shore.

He’s been climbing for 23 years and has tackled some of the most difficult routes in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Illinois native grew up wrestling and doing gymnastics. Combining those interests with a love of nature made climbing an instinctive next step.

“I don’t know what it is, I just love it,” Kaufman said last week, adding, “It’s like I’m wrestling with the rock.”

He said the skills acquired through climbing give him an advantage in tackling the show’s competition, billed as “the ultimate obstacle course.”

“Climbers have a massive advantage at this,” Kaufman said, adding that the strength, strategy and movement in climbing all come into play on the show.

Compared to difficult rock climbing routes, an obstacle course was relatively easy, Kaufman said. He said the “American Ninja Warrior” courses presented a cardiovascular challenge, something he didn’t anticipate. The competitions all-or-nothing format also creates some anxiety among competitors.

“It’s really easy to make a stupid mistake,” Kaufman said.

Midoriyama, a multi-stage course that represents the finale of the show, has never been completed during the four previous seasons of “American Ninja Warrior.” The show is based the long-running Japanese show “Sasuke.” Three people have successfully completed the Japanese iteration of the obstacle course. Competitors in the U.S. are vying for a $500,000 cash prize.

The Las Vegas-finale for the show was filmed in June. Kaufman said he is limited in what he can say about the results, but said he hopes to compete in the televised competition next year.

“I’m going to train really hard for this next year.” Kaufman said. “I honestly think that I could do it. That I can win it.”

“American Ninja Warrior” appears Sundays at 9 p.m. and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the G4 network. Episodes are also shown at 8 p.m. on Mondays on NBC.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.