Watch Artis Thompson III run the American Ninja Warrior course live in Oklahoma City on Monday June 20th, 2016.
Artis Thompson is used to thinking big. As a standout athlete since high school, he is used to tackling big obstacles and coming out on top. Working as a personal trainer he is used to pushing himself and his clients to make them better so it was no surprise to those who know him that he decided last year to apply for the wildly popular NBC show American Ninja Warrior (ANW).
The show matches individual competitors against increasingly challenging obstacles that test strength, balance, and endurance as they race against the clock in front of a live television audience. The course is so difficult that prior to last season, no American had ever completed the now legendary finals course called Mt. Midoriyama in Las Vegas.
As a semi-professional football player, personal trainer, and former competitive kickboxer, Thompson certainly had the diverse athletic prowess that is needed for success on the course but he also had a unique obstacle of his own – his left leg.
Thompson lost his left leg below the knee in a 2012 motorcycle accident. But rather than let it limit him, Thompson has continue to push himself to achieve more and show other amputees what is possible. He walked out of the hospital only three months after his surgery and was playing professional football again only seven months post-amputation.
Last year as a rookie on the show, Thompson felt good about his chance to complete the city qualifying course in Houston. He successfully conquered the first two obstacles to tremendous applause from the crowd before losing his footing and falling off a balance obstacle known as the spinning log.
After his inspiring run on national TV, Thompson received lots of well-wishes from across America but a non-profit charity based in Nashville, TN reached out with a different message of hope.
Thompson received a tweet from one of the board members asking him to connect and promised that they could equip him with a more advanced prosthetic limb that would improve his speed and balance. Amputee Blade Runners (ABR) was created in 2011, to help amputees return to an active lifestyle by raising money and fitting amputees with custom designed limbs that fit their particular athletic interests.
Blade running technology has advanced significantly over the past 5 years but the equipment is expensive and insurance will not cover the cost deeming such items as “not medically necessary”. A single blade leg normally costs between $10,000 to $15,000 – out of reach for most individuals.
Amputee Blade Runners makes this technology available free-of-charge to applicants who demonstrate their commitment to staying active and inspiring others. Since 2011, they have helped over 76 amputees from across the country and have a goal to have one athlete-ambassador in all 50 states by the end of 2016.
Thompson visited Nashville a few short months after the show aired and was fitted by local prosthetist Aaron Fitzsimmons who founded the charity in 2011. He immediately saw an improvement in his speed and agility and is more motivated than ever to show the world what he can do in his second season on ANW.
As a personal trainer, Thompson has become active in working with other active amputees. In 2015, he coach and ran beside Rebekah Gregory a survivor of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing to help her complete the race. Now he hopes to be the first amputee to scale the fabled warped wall on American Ninja Warrior.
Thompson’s second run on American Ninja Warrior will air live on NBC this Monday June 20, 2016.