The third time was the charm for Cody Johnston.
The Fort Smith native and University of Arkansas – Fort Smith alumnus competed for a third time on the popular television show “American Ninja Warrior,” a competition in which contestants attempt to navigate an obstacle course quicker than their opponents. For the first time, his run made the cut to be televised on the show, which aired June 6.
Johnston made it to the penultimate obstacle on the course before falling. He placed 31st in the competition, missing the cut to move on to the next round of the competition by one spot.
While he may have not advanced, he used his opportunity on the show to promote the platform “Ninjas Against Smoking” after the recent death of his mother and grandmother due to complications from smoking.
“I wanted to share that story and hopefully inspire others to walk away from the habit,” he said.
A Navy veteran, Johnston remained in shape after his military career, working out regularly and playing with his kids. He and his family also avidly watched “American Ninja Warrior,” and when his family urged him to apply, he did so.
“There have been over 70,000 applicants the last couple of years,” Johnston said. “So to actually get chosen, I guess I’m doing something right.”
Each applicant was required to submit a video introducing themselves to accompany their application. To distinguish himself in his first application, Johnston’s son built a miniature Lego obstacle course, and Johnston made a stop-motion animation video of a Lego version of himself running the course.
“It was a pretty tedious process,” he said. “But it paid off in the end.”
To prepare for his most recent appearance, Johnston trained at a “ninja gym” he owns. He joked his regimen was working out “whatever body part that doesn’t hurt or ache at the time,” in addition to push-ups and pull-ups.
Johnston graduated from UAFS in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and currently is a nurse anesthetist in Sitka, Alaska. While he didn’t advance, he said the experience was “like no other.”
“It’s kind of a surreal moment – the cameras, the lights, the crowds,” he said. “I’m blessed I got the opportunity to experience it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”