Kindergarten Ninja Chad Riddle hits buzzer in city qualifications

John A. Pavoncello

After graduating from college in 2011, Chad Riddle, of Red Lion, was looking for his next athletic challenge when he saw "Sasuke," a Japanese sports television show where competitors attempted to complete a multi-stage obstacle course.

"I knew my background in rock climbing would suit me well to tackle this endeavor," Riddle, 28, said.

Riddle started training for "American Ninja Warrior," the hugely popular U.S. version of the original Japanese show, seven years ago, building a ninja course first in his parent's backyard and then the yard of his Red Lion home. 

Four years ago, he competed in the Miami qualifying event for the show, but he came up short when he fell on the fifth obstacle.

"Having a second chance to compete in the show in season 10, I wanted to make sure all that training that I put forth would help me be successful," he said. "This was my second year of competing, and the first time hitting the buzzer, it's a feeling I'll never forget."

South Western teacher Chad Riddle works out at Ninja Logic in Hanover, Thursday, July 12, 2018. The Red Lion native recently rang the buzzer on the American Ninja Warrior Philadelphia City qualifying event and is now helping to teach the next generation of Ninja Warrior athletes at the gym. John A. Pavoncello photo

The South Western School District kindergarten teacher had to overcome not only his fall in season 6 but health problems because of Crohn's disease. After being diagnosed with the disease, which causes weight loss, digestion problems and inflammation, Riddle tackled the obstacle the same way he would one on the course.

"When I found out that this was going to be an obstacle I'd have to confront, everything that I learned in 'American Ninja Warrior'  — to not give up, to persevere — it helped me tackle this chronic condition," Riddle said.

The show also gave him a platform to inspire others who suffer from Crohn's.

"Unfortunately, there are not a lot of high-level athletes who suffer from this condition," Riddle added. 

Riddle is hush-hush on what happened after this year's city qualifier in Philadelphia. Usually the top 35 finishers from each qualifier compete the following day in the city finals, but the public won't know how the Kindergarten Ninja did until the episode airs in early August. 

Now Riddle is helping train the next generation of Ninja Warrior athletes at the recently opened Ninja Logic LLC on Baltimore Street in Hanover.

"One of my biggest passions is working with kids, and I love teaching them and seeing them master new skills," he said. "Opening up a gym here where I teach, it is a blessing." 

Not only is Riddle teaching children a new way of being physically active, he no longer has to train on obstacles in his backyard as he prepares for the next season of "American Ninja Warrior."

"Now I'm combining what I love to do, which is teach, and what I love to do in my own personal time, which is train to compete for Ninja Warrior," Riddle said.