Sgt. Michael Bougher can thank his dislike of running for becoming a three-time “American Ninja Warrior.’’
Looking to train for a physical fitness test, Bougher — a soldier in the Indiana Army National Guard — originally considered parkour, based on a military exercise in which participants propel themselves over and around obstacles. He found a gym that offered parkour classes, only to discover the instructor had been fired.
As an alternative, the facility offered a 14-foot warped wall, which is common in ninja warrior workouts. Bougher (pronounced Bowyer) never had attempted such a thing.
Why not now?
“I actually made it up the warped wall on my first try, and ever since then, I just fell in love with it,’’ Bougher said.
Bougher, 25, qualified for “American Ninja Warrior’’ in 2017, 2018, and 2020. (He missed 2019 because of ranger school.) He advanced to the city finals in Kansas City, Missouri, four years ago, reached the national finals in Las Vegas the next year and was knocked out in a city qualifier last year.
“There’s a lot of people who are just absurdly strong,’’ Bougher said. “It really comes down to who can keep their mental mindset ahead of the game. That’s one of the biggest things that will take people out. They can be extremely confident on the course, but as soon as they get to the show, it is a whole new ball game because of just how mentally unprepared you can be for something like that.’’
Bougher has always been athletic.
The 6-foot, 165-pound Bougher never was the biggest child, but that didn’t matter. He enjoyed wrestling, golf and playing soccer and football. Bougher now plays wing and fullback for the Fort Wayne Rugby Club.
“He wasn’t a superstar on any team, but he was a team player, which was a good aspect,’’ said Bougher’s father, Bill. “He carried them in spurts, but he wasn’t that standout kid that everybody admired.
“It all started with him going into the Army National Guard. It’s just like everything came together, and it sprouted a different adult there. That key component of ‘American Ninja Warrior’ fit in there at absolutely the right time.’’
Jordan Marigny credits Bougher, his training partner, with pushing him in the gym.
“He makes me try and do literally everything,’’ Marigny said. “At first, I don’t get it, and toward the end of me keeping on trying it, I’ll get it at some point.’’
Said Bougher, who has been in the Army National Guard for eight years: “It’s multifaceted, the sport of ninja, and if you’re lacking in one department, you’re going to figure it out pretty quick that, ‘Hey, this is one thing that you need to work on.’’’
Bougher evolved through competing on “American Ninja Warrior.’’
“Looking back, it almost feels like I was unprepared, but in the moment, that was where I was supposed to be,’’ he said of his first year as a competitor. “This was what I should be doing. I felt good. It was never until I got to Vegas in Season 10 that I was like, ‘OK, this is a lot.’’’
Bougher said reaching the national finals was the only time he felt nervous on “American Ninja Warrior.’’ Normally, standing on that stage, a jolt of confidence surges through his body.
“Anything this course can throw at me, I’m ready for it,’’ Bougher said.
Bougher is waiting to hear whether he has qualified for “American Ninja Warrior’’ in 2021. He plans to apply every year after this one, too, until they tell him “to stop wasting my time.’’
That’s not likely.
In the beginning, all Bougher wanted was to pass his PT test. What he got was a workout, plus a new way of confronting adversity.
“It helps you understand and look at challenges in a different light so you can bring a different mindset to tackle every challenge differently,’’ Bougher said. “There’s not one way to do a certain obstacle, and there’s not one way to handle a situation or a problem.’’Read comments