Story by Joey Crandall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minden resident and Carson Valley emergency room doctor Noah Kaufman spent much of Tuesday morning on the phone with friends and family, talking about his 15 minutes of fame.
Kaufman, 38, who works at both Carson Valley Medical Center and Barton Memorial Hospital at Lake Tahoe with the Tahoe Emergency Physicians Group, appeared on the NBC television show “American Ninja Warrior” Monday night as a competitor on the extreme obstacle course competition.
“It was really fun to watch,” Kaufman, a lifelong rock climber, said. “It’s kind of that 15 minutes of fame experience. I’m super self-critical, so I was worried about if I was coming off cocky or anything like that. But it was a good time and it was exciting to see it play out.”
Kaufman completed the course in 2 minutes, 10.18 seconds to advance to the semifinal round. You can view his qualifying attempt here.
“The course itself isn’t that hard,” he said. “The difficulty is that you only get one shot at it. No practice. It’d be really easy to slip, or if you just don’t hit the course right. That part was tough. Plus you’ve got all the pressure of the camera and the lights and the crowd. If you fall once, you’re out. When you saw that last night, that was literally the first time I was trying any of those obstacles. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
“A lot of people train year-round for this, and if you catch a bad break, it’s kind of tough luck.”
Kaufman said his next appearance, which will air in four weeks, was actually filmed in early April. Due to his contractual agreement with NBC, he can’t reveal how that round went until it airs.
“I wasn’t really in the best of shape for the qualifying round,” he said. “After that first run, I really started training hard.
“These obstacle course shows have been getting really popular these last few years, and it’s always something I thought about doing. My rock climber friends and I talk about how rock climbers are kind of ideally suited for these competitions because of how many variables you encounter out on a boulder. The adaptability and the conditioning seem like they would translate very well.”
Kaufman said he had a rock climbing friend who competed and performed well on last year’s American Ninja Warrior. That friend encouraged him to try out for the show this year.
“You had to submit kind of an audition video on Youtube,” he said. “They invited me to tryouts and luckily, I did pretty well. It kind of went from there.”
During Monday night’s show, Kaufman quickly became the hero of the night when a fellow competitor dislocated his shoulder and Kaufman helped repair it on scene. NBC aired footage of the exchange during Monday’s episode.
“That was a crazy thing,” Kaufman said. “I’d just been talking with that guy before he started his run. I saw him get hurt, and at some point your instincts just kind of kick in. I’m a doctor first, obviously Ninja Warrior comes second at that point.
“I asked if I could help, but they said the paramedics were on their way. It was in Los Angeles in the middle of the night and it was going to be a while before he was going to get the relief he needed. There were no cameras or anything near him, so I went over and offered to pop it back into joint.
“He’s a chiropractor and he knew it was dislocated. He was in a lot of pain, so I just popped it back in and when I turned around, all the cameras were there. It really caught me off guard. They tried to interview me, but I kind of got out of the way, because it’s not something I was doing to make it on TV. I was just glad for the opportunity to be able to use my skills to be able to help someone, save him some pain and some money. It was just a very surreal moment.”
NBC brought film crews out to Gardnerville and Minden in mid-April to get background footage of Kaufman.
“A lot of that will air on the next show,” he said. “They came to the hospital and spent some time at our house. I got to show them the climbing wall I built in my garage. They talked with my wife and shot some footage of our 3-year-old son. It was probably hours and hours of footage. That part was all kind of like a dream. It was interesting to see how they went about it.”
After returning from the initial filming, Kaufman said he drastically ramped up his training to include vigorous swims in the lake, hiking with his son on his back and doing hour-long runs with sprints at 10-second intervals for approximately 10 minutes. He said he lost about 15 pounds during the training.
“It’s something I definitely want to do for the next few years,” he said. “I feel like if I spend a year really training for it, I can really excel.”
Kaufman maintains a blog, http://www.tryhardclimbers.blogspot.com, and has produced many rock climbing videos on Youtube.