A Warrior With Heart

The CrossFit world already knows DJ Forsyth is a warrior. But soon, we’ll find out if he’s an “American Ninja Warrior.”
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DJ Forsyth

The CrossFit world already knows DJ Forsyth is a warrior. But soon, we’ll find out if he’s an American Ninja Warrior.

Forsyth, a South Central Regionals competitor in both 2012 and 2013, had open-heart surgery in December of 2013. He had been diagnosed in his early 20s with aortic stenosis — a narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart — and lived with it for nearly 14 years before doctors replaced his faulty aortic valve with a mechanical one. But Forsyth is all heart — mechanical or otherwise — and made an amazing comeback in time for the 2014 Open. This season, at age 40, he’s in 13th place out of more than 17,000 competitors worldwide in the 40 to 44-year-old Masters Division heading into Open WOD 15.5.

But he’ll also have something else to do this weekend: American Ninja Warrior is coming to Houston, which is just 25 miles from Forsyth’s home in Spring, Texas.

ANW follows competitors as they battle a series of obstacle courses in both qualifying and finals rounds across the country; this season’s regionals will take place in Houston, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Kansas City and Venice, California. Competitors who successfully complete a course at their regional move on to the national finals in Las Vegas on June 24 and 25, where they face a four-stage obstacle course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan. The show is taped in advance, and the season will premiere May 25th on NBC.

Forsyth regularly watches ANW with daughter Mackenzie, 11, and son Brady, 7. Last season, during an episode, a message flashed across the screen, encouraging those who wanted to apply for a spot on American Ninja Warrior to visit the show’s website. “My kids really wanted me to do it, so I looked into it,” Forsyth says. “A buddy helped me make a video and we submitted it around Christmas, and honestly, we kind of just forgot about it.”

Until Monday, March 16, when ANW came calling. Forsyth was offered a spot at the show’s Houston regional on March 28 and 29. “My kids are so excited, but the first thing my daughter said was, ‘Dad, when you fall in the water, the TV camera is going to come straight to me and I’m going to be famous,’” Forsyth says. “I can’t believe she thinks I’m going to fall, and she wants to get her nails done so she can be ready for her big moment.”

To avoid falling, Forsyth went Monday night for a crash-course at Iron Sports Houston, an indoor obstacle course and cross-training facility run by 47-year-old ANW veteran Sam Sann. “Sam is a big shot and a crowd favorite, because he’s old,” Forsyth says. “They call him ‘Grandpa Ninja’ and he’s only seven years older than I am.”

And Sann also has a perfectly healthy heart.

“I talk about my heart surgery in my video, and show how far I’ve come in just a little over a year,” Forsyth says. “We also interviewed both my kids, and my son said, ‘Take my dad, because he got me a motorcycle for Christmas.’ Even though heart surgery is serious, my video wasn’t. I’m sure it was nothing like everyone else’s.”

Then again, neither is Forsyth.

Image courtesy of the CrossFit Games