Robbie Doman served in the Army from 2001-2013. In 2008 while on tour in Iraq, he was severely injured in an IED attack, requiring 14 surgeries and five years of physical therapy (Courtesy Photo).
Robbie Doman, a 2001 HHS grad from Amherst, transitions from one ring to the next in the ring swing in Monday night’s episode of American Ninja Warrior (Photo Courtesy Dustin Bradford, NBC).
Holyoke grad’s ‘impossible comeback story’ featured on TV’s American Ninja Warriors
Did you “witness one American hero’s impossible comeback story” July 17 as the dramatic, nationally televised commercial for American Ninja Warrior promised?
That American hero was none other than Robbie Doman, a 2001 Holyoke High School graduate who grew up in Amherst, Colo.
Doman, now a special forces army veteran with 12 years of service under his belt, was seriously injured in Iraq in February 2008 by an attempted improvised explosive device attack. The IED caused his humvee to roll four or five times, ejecting Doman from his post in the turret and then rolling over his legs.
He was wheelchair-bound for over four months and had a total of 14 surgeries because of that attack — a spinal fusion in his lower back, eight surgeries on his right leg and knee and surgeries on each ankle.
“The first season of American Ninja Warrior came out while I was injured,” said Doman. “I saw it and thought, I could probably do that!”
American Ninja Warrior, now on its ninth season, is sports entertainment competition airing on NBC, featuring contestants running, jumping, climbing and swinging through six increasingly difficult obstacles.
Doman had a great deal of recovery still to go at the time of that 2009 season. He stayed active in the military, rehabilitating with physical therapy in the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program until retiring in 2013.
However, the American Ninja Warrior idea had taken hold in Doman’s mind. When he applied in November 2016, he pumped up his training, just in case he was accepted.
“I never tried out any of those ninja gyms you see or that people build for themselves,” said Doman. “I just upped the push-ups and pull-ups and just went for it.”
Besides push-ups and pull-ups, Doman’s training routine consisted mainly of free weights, upper body strength and grip strength training three-to-four times per week.
Doman applied for the American Ninja Warrior competition alongside more than 70,000 other potential contestants. Only 600-720 total contestants — 100 per each of the six competition cities plus up to 20 reserve applicants per city — were accepted from those 70,000 applicants.
Doman didn’t hear back about whether he made the cut until April this year. Doing the math, that means he was in the top 1 percent of total applicants.
As part of the application process, Doman had to submit a three to five-minute video about why he wanted to be an American Ninja Warrior.
“I want to inspire wounded veterans. You don’t have to just sit around and feel bad—eventually, you can do great things,” said Doman in the July 17 episode.
However, he had no idea just how inspiring his story was to the people at NBC.
“It was pretty wild,” said Doman. “They had me sign all kinds of releases, and then it was an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day of photo shoots and interviews the day before filming.”
Based on the interviews and photo sessions, Doman said he had a general idea that they would probably use part of his bio in the episode, but was as surprised as anyone else when a promotional video came out solely dedicated to his story.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all!” he said.
Still, knowing that even part of his story would be featured was extra motivation. From watching past episodes, Doman had seen competitors’ stories built up only to have the touted person fall from the course in the first obstacle.
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