Paralympian Jarryd Wallace Opens Up About Fatherhood, Tokyo 2020 And American Ninja Warrior

By U.S. Paralympics | June 05, 2019, 6:59 p.m. (ET)

Paralympic sprinter Jarryd Wallace addresses the media at the Team USA Media Summit at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.
Wallace has competed at the last two Paralympic Games and has earned four medals across two world championships. He will be competing tonight, June 5, on the airing of American Ninja Warrior season 11 filmed in Atlanta. 

Two-time Paralympian and three-time world champion Jarryd Wallace has faced plenty of challenges throughout his track and field career, but he took on something entirely new when he was selected to compete on the 11th season of American Ninja Warrior, filmed in Atlanta. U.S. Paralympics asked Wallace some questions about his time on the show, experience competing and upcoming plans for the future. Read the full interview below and tune into American Ninja Warrior tonight, June 5, to watch Wallace's episode airing at 8 p.m. ET: 

What made you apply to be on American Ninja Warrior?
One of the producers reached out to me when they had decided they were going to be filming in Atlanta and asked if I would be interested in competing on the show. I had never been in a ninja gym before, but I knew the show and was a big fan, so I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to share my story and represent U.S. Paralympics as well. After making a video and submitting an application, I was selected for Season 11 of American Ninja Warrior, taking place in Atlanta.   

Did you do any training or preparation before getting on the course?
I went to a ninja gym, tried some obstacles and talked to the guys about some advice they had. A ninja gym isn’t your standard gym – it’s more like a big kid’s playground or a dream parkour playground. They have climbing walls, pegs, trampolines, swinging obstacles, etc. 

I wasn't sure which obstacles would be on the course, as most of them change. This year, it was all new obstacles. They presented a really great course in Atlanta and I had a lot of fun competing and trying out something completely different. 

Were there any similarities between competing in Paralympic sport and competing on American Ninja Warrior?

When I got to share my story, I talked about the impact that Paralympic sport has had on my life and the opportunity to compete at the highest level against some of the greatest competitors in the world. I compare that to the ninjas that I got to compete against. During my first few years of running, I wasn't necessarily the best athlete in the world. However, I got to compete with some of the best athletes in the world and that's what pushed me to become better. 

I viewed this first-year ninja experience as the same opportunity. I wasn't naive enough to think that I was going to go in and break the course record or win the whole thing. Just having an opportunity to compete against these athletes made it so exciting and enjoyable. It really allowed me to put my name in the hat and give it a try. It was neat to see how the two paralleled in that sense. 

Was the actual experience similar to your expectations, or did it differ greatly? 
The part that I had zero expectations for was the logistics of the process. They shoot the event throughout the night, which was a different experience. I don't really work out at 1 or 2 in the morning, so that was a unique change. 

I think having the experience of traveling around the world and having to race in different time zones is what helped me mentally say, "hey, it's like I'm racing in a different country and my body is going to be a little off and that's okay". I used that perspective going into it and that prior experience definitely helped. All of these logistics that I'm used to in the track world, like the warm-up area, where athletes hang out, the call zone, that was all different. But I learned a lot from the veteran warriors who were around and were willing to jump into friendly conversations.

What was your favorite part of the entire experience being on the show?
Definitely one of the coolest things that I noticed is that the ninja community is strong and united. It was neat because obviously everyone was there to compete, but also wanted each individual to succeed. That was the coolest part of the experience for me, seeing a group of people competing against each other, but also celebrating and cheering every moment of someone else’s successes and mourning with each other in their failures. 

I think more sports could benefit from having that encouraging perspective. What I saw was not that it decreased the performance, but actually boosted people's performances, having that support and unity around each other. That was probably the greatest takeaway from my experience.

Looking ahead towards the future, what is this summer and fall going to look like for you?
This year is one of those times when you can't help but start looking ahead to the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. We have less than 500 days to go, and that being the case, everything we do now is looking ahead towards Tokyo. However, on that journey lies a major world championship event this November in Dubai. I’m excited for it – that track is really fast and hopefully we'll have a lot of good competitors. 

The big news for me in 2019 is that my wife and I are expecting a little boy at the end of October. We’ve always wanted the opportunity to be parents and lead a family, and those things are becoming a reality soon. We're super honored and excited to begin growing our family and I know that the team and USOC are going to be supporting that process.  

How are you feeling about fatherhood and being a first-time dad?
Being a father is the most important job that I'm going to ever have in my life. There's so much responsibility that comes with being a father, and I have a lot of learning to do. But I have plenty of great examples in my parents, in-laws and family members. 

I’m going to make sure that being a great father is my number one priority, and then learn how to continue being an athlete in the midst of that. I’m excited to bring the little man out to track workouts with me and immerse him in sport early on. Hopefully he'll be a fan of track and field, but whatever he ends up wanting to do, we're going to support. 

A lot of change is on the horizon and life is never going to look the same come October, but I've always been a proponent of change. I think becoming a father is going to motivate me even more to want to be a great athlete and a great role model for my son to look up to.

There’s so much to look forward to! In terms of this season of American Ninja Warrior premiering tonight, do you have any plans for how you’re going to watch?
It's an exciting evening for us with American Ninja Warrior coming on tonight and an exciting year ahead, bringing a little boy into the world. Some family and friends that live nearby are going to come by the house and watch. We’re hopeful that they air my run and that I made the final cut. It's obviously a great opportunity to have that platform, but if not, it was a great experience and I'm excited to hopefully be able to compete again on the show in the future.