|Kyle Cochran, 24, a student at San Diego State University who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 19 years||Competed as a finalist on NBC and G4’s American Ninja Warrior||To tackle "the ultimate obstacle course" and inspire other people with diabetes to push their athletic limits|
Kyle Cochran, of San Diego, has always loved obstacle courses. When the opportunity came for him to test his skills on a national level, he stepped up to the challenge—wearing his insulin pump. Cochran made it to the first round of the finals competition and plans to compete again in 2013. You can see Cochran competing in the regional and final rounds at nbc.com/american-ninja-warrior/. “Kyle was one of our most impressive newcomers to the competition this year,” says Laura Civiello, vice president of development for the G4 TV network. “His experience with having type 1 diabetes sets him apart from the majority of athletes.”
The inspiration: A lot of friends of mine had been saying to me, “Kyle, you need to be on this show called Ninja Warrior.” As soon as I saw it … it was exactly what I love doing. I love climbing. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a monkey. I climbed everything I saw. I always loved doing races and competing, and I used to turn my living room into an obstacle course. This was kind of like the ultimate obstacle course, and I couldn’t wait to get on.
The pitch: [To get on the show, you must] put together a video, talk about yourself, and show them physical skills you can do. Producers select 300 to 350 videos per region. They call in those [participants] and you all run the course they set up. The top 30 fastest guys to get through the regional course move on to the semifinals. For the semifinals, they make it longer and more difficult. Fifteen from each region go on to the finals, plus 10 wild cards [for 100 finalists total] in Las Vegas.
The training: I started training in 2011. I was going to compete in the 2011 season, but I tore my [right knee] ACL, MCL, and meniscus, so I couldn’t compete. I was pretty devastated, but it drove me even harder to train for 2012. I do a lot of training at the gym at San Diego State. They have a really nice weight-lifting room. Most of my training is on the rock wall. There’s a workout program called Insanity—I wasn’t expecting it to be as crazy as it is, but it definitely got my cardio in shape.
The course is being readied for the American Ninja Warrior finals. Kyle Cochran made it to the swinging balls pictured at upper right before taking a tumble.
The course: Stage 1 [of the finals] has eight obstacles. The first is like the quad step, with angled walls on each side. You jump off each and grab a rope to swing across a pool of water. Run down a platform and then you have to grab this log and hold on to it as it spins down a ramp. Drop off the end of it onto another platform, [where] you springboard onto a bar. When you grab the bar, it unlocks and swings you down and forward onto a diagonal wall that you have to climb onto. [The next] is called the spider wall: You have to jump off a trampoline and catch on to the walls by pressing your hands and feet. In the half-pipe attack, you run sideways across it and grab a little rope [to swing] onto a platform that’s pretty small. That’s actually the hardest part! Then you climb up a warped wall. There are big red balls that spin and swing and you have to run across the top of them. That’s where I went down. Those were tough. That took down almost everyone who made it to that point. If you made it past that, you grab on to a rope and swing past a pretty big pool of water, onto a cargo net, and climb up before the timer [sounds].
The daredevil: I’ve never really been able to stay still. I always have to be doing something, and I guess the crazier or the more exciting, the better. I was always almost giving my mom a heart attack, climbing as high as I could, trying to find things to jump off of. I got that quality from my dad, the adrenaline-junkie thing. He’s the one who got me into these extreme sports: We fly together when we paraglide. He’s the one who decided to start dirt-biking. It’s me usually keeping up with him in terms of the craziness level.
The diabetes care: Before I got the pump, it definitely slowed me down a lot in terms of having to stop. … With the pump, it’s so regulated that I’m able to compete at the same level as everyone else. It allowed me so much more freedom in what I could eat and how I could train. I suspended it and took it off during the course. Don’t be reserved, [thinking] that you can’t compete on the same level as everybody else just because you have diabetes.
The support: I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I do without God. He inspires me more than anything. Both of my parents are super-supportive. I have one younger sister who just turned 2. We are super-close, basically best friends. I have the most amazing family. I have had a number of people recognize me. It’s a little strange but it’s fun. I’ve had a lot of people contact me on Facebook, saying I inspired them. That’s one of the big reasons I did the show.